At council’s July 21 meeting, administration suggested the creation of an Administration Building Renovation Committee to study the issue and make a recommendation to council as to how best to move forward, while indicating its belief that the building is in need of renovations to improve functionality, remove hazardous materials, and improve energy efficiency.
“As you know, this building is not necessarily well utilized,” said CAO Greg Birch. “The proposal is we take a good look at this.”
During 2014 budget deliberations, administration proposed that council re-consider renovations to the town’s portion of the Administration Building. Council budgeted $25,000 to undertake this study in 2014.
The committee would involve two councillors, a member at large, and three staff members for meetings one to two times per month from September until project completion.
“Since I’ve been here, there’s been discussions around renovations,” said Dale Culler, director of corporate services. “The discussion around better utilizing this building has been ongoing for a number of years. In 2011, there was a concerted effort to go ahead and come up with a plan. It went all the way to tendering and came before council. There was some apprehension around moving forward with renovations.”
The low tender for the original renovation project, which was rejected by town council in a 5-1 vote in January 2012, rang in at just under $1.76 million.
“At this point, we still believe that this building can be better utilized,” said Culler. “Where some of the challenges were was getting a real good idea about how best to move forward. What we’re looking for is direct involvement with council members, to at least investigate the possibility of doing renovations to this building. And to see what’s out there — not limiting us to this building — but seeing what other options might be available to us to better serve our residents in the town of Taber.”
The town’s portion of the Administration Building has not seen major renovations or modernization since it was opened almost five decades ago in 1966.
“We have a lot of vacant space in this whole building,” said Coun. Rick Popadynetz. “What’s going to happen with this building? I don’t necessarily disagree that we need a renovation here, but what’s going to happen in the next five or 10 years? We should have a five or ten year plan. What are our goals as administration, and as council?”
According to administration, renovations would be intended to help safeguard the town’s assets and ensure that the building design contributes to a sustainable workplace environment that meets operational needs through a reduction of wasted space, removal of hazardous materials, and increased energy efficiency.
“This building is certainly past its life cycle here, and one way or another we need to address the situation,” said Coun. Laura Ross-Giroux. “I agree with Councillor Popadynetz, it’s long overdue.”
Opened on June 1, 1966, the building’s south portion, comprising approximately 8,000 square feet, was originally occupied by town administration as well as Alberta Hail and Crop Insurance. With the opening of the Provincial Building in 1990, Alberta Hail and Crop Insurance moved out of the west half of the Administration Building and the town’s operations took over that previously occupied space.
Coun. Joe Strojwas urged caution in moving forward with the idea, fearing a public backlash could ensue over any proposed project if not handled with kid gloves.
“This issue has been around for years, and it’s a touchy issue, because if you ask Joe Public they’ll say forget it — you guys have a functional building, it’s a great building, stay with it,” said Coun. Strojwas. “So you need to tread very lightly. I would be in favour of going down this road on an exploratory basis only, at this point, because it’s going to generate a lot of flak. There’s been a lot of flak generated over the past few years.”
An almost six-digit price tag was eaten by taxpayers following previous council’s decision to not initiate a renovation project in early 2012.
“The number, just for the bid, the design, and the tendering, the architectural drawings — all of that wound up being, I would say around $90,000,” said Culler.
Mayor Henk DeVlieger was also cognizant of public perceptions that might surround any project moving forward.
“It’s good that we explore it, but we have to be very careful with the public. It’s still functional. There’s a lot of things that we have to think about in the town that are falling apart. We have to be very careful, especially with the public.”
Coun. Randy Sparks defended previous council’s decision not to move forward with a renovation project, citing the prohibitive expense that had been presented.
“I think that’s why the council of the day decided not to do anything, because the cost of doing it was out there. Ninety thousand dollars was a lot cheaper than the final total if we did everything. I think it’s good to have a committee of individuals that will explore this, and it find out what the best approach is going to be.”
Council voted unanimously to approve the Administration Building Renovation Committee terms of reference as presented, and appointed Coun.(s) Randy Sparks and Joe Strojwas to sit on the committee.
As an addendum to the motion, council also directed administration to approach Edwin Ellingson of the Municipal Planning Commission regarding membership on the committee.