The Cowichan Valley Regional District Board is moving ahead with plans to replace the roof on the aging Saltair Community Centre despite the objections of residents seeking a referendum before spending Saltair gas tax and Saltair taxation funds.
A representative group from among the 628 people who signed a petition asking for all Saltair residents/voters to have a say in a referendum made its presence felt at a rally outside the CVRD offices in Duncan last Wednesday before a regular board meeting. Placards reading “Referendum before spending Saltair funds”, “We want a referendum now” and “No taxation without representation” were carried by those gathered outside.
“Saltair taxpayers/voters made a statement by signing a petition for a referendum that they have been waiting over three years to have a say about the funding of the building bought by the CVRD board without taxpayers assent,” noted group member Lynne Smith. “We were trying to make a statement. Before the CVRD board directors make a decision regarding spending Saltair funds, we, the Saltair taxpayers/voters have petitioned the CVRD board for a referendum. Only Saltair taxpayers have a financial obligation for this building and not other CVRD areas have a taxpayers financial commitment.”
For the Nov. 29 CVRD board meeting, directors received a report from staff on the issue recommending that: 1. emergency capital replacement of the roofing system and interior repairs at the Saltair Community Centre be approved, with estimated costs not to exceed $300,000 funded first by $130,000 Community Works Gas Tax, $33,000 from Operating Reserves and the remainder funded through a maximum of $137,000 in short term borrowing; 2. that a maximum of $137,000 in short term borrowing for the emergency replacement of the roofing system and interior repairs at the Saltair Community Centre be approved and that the loan be paid back over five years pursuant to Liabilities under Agreements Section 175 of the Community Charter; and 3. that a contract be awarded to Top Line Roofing Ltd. in the amount of $154,649 (excluding taxes) for emergency replacement of the roof system on the Saltair Community Centre based on their quote received dated Nov. 7.
The directors passed the staff recommendations, with Cowichan Bay director Lori Iannidinardo being the lone and rather loud dissenter.
The staff report did not include a report from the CVRD Chief Administrative Officer Brian Carruthers explaining the expenditure that was presented to the directors under the CVRD Procurement Policy ‘emergencies’ to bypass the normal procedures in the event of a disaster or emergency.
The CVRD board purchased the former Mount Brenton Elementary School building in August of 2014 and leased it to the Saltair Community Society as of June 1, 2016 for $1 to provide recreation programs for the Saltair community. The Society also entered into a recreation services agreement with the CVRD to receive Saltair taxation funds to assist with the community centre’s operation of recreation programs.
Prior to the CVRD board’s acquisition of the building, an inspection of the roof by an independent roof inspection contractor determined its life expectancy “is 1-2 years with repairs to deficiencies.” In addition, the CVRD board contracted with McCuaig and Associates Engineering Ltd. in 2017 to conduct a facility condition assessment on the centre as a CVRD Asset.
The McCuaig report released by the CVRD on Aug. 16 not only determined the roof was in poor condition, but many other facets of the building had exceeded life span and were in need of costly renewal, restoration or repairs.
A referendum was sought to establish if Saltair taxpayers/voters did or did not approve taxpayers and/or grant funds being spent on the building and wanting to give the CVRD board guidance about how to proceed, right down to the possibility of tearing down the building and erecting a smaller, perhaps more functional, but newer facility for all residents.
The CVRD board’s decision to spend the gas tax funding, Saltair taxation funds and a new loan for Saltair taxpayers on the roof now limits other future possibilities for what many residents perceive would be a more prudent use of the money for a long-term solution, rather than taking patchwork measures on a building that’s now 67 years old.
The $137,000 loan that doesn’t require Saltair taxpayers’ approval will take five years to repay and won’t leave any other money available for the building’s many other long-term financial costs.
“One has to question why the CVRD board is not willing to engage the Saltair Community taxpayers/voters prior to spending Saltair taxpayers funds and to ask Saltair taxpayers if they are willing to take on this five-year loan,” Smith noted. “Yes, taxpayer approval is not required under the CVRD five-year Short Term Loan but since the Saltair taxpayers have never had a democratic say with regards to the building this then brings into question the CVRD board use of Best Practices – good decisions based on the CVRD’s own Asset Management Policy, Procurement Policy, Community Engagement Policy and the Strategic Plan 2014-2018.”
The CVRD staff report indicates the roof replacement will be start in January 2018 because the Society advised it is leaking in several places. Of the 14 roofing contractors contacted by the Society, six submitted quotations for removal and replacement of the entire roof system. The quotes ranged from Top Line’s low of $154,649 to a high of $276,820.
The CVRD staff report to the board indicated it would be appropriate to include provisional funding to address any additional costs that may arise due to the uncertain condition of the sub-roof structure.
Having to begin work in early January is not considered the ideal time for an extensive roofing project due to uncertain weather conditions.
“This kind of roof in January?” questioned Smith.
“You can’t get a good seal,” she added, from what she’s been told by roofing contractors.