Nanaimo councillors will wait to hear more information from city staff before deciding whether to increase the construction budget at the Nanaimo Center Stage community theatre by a $34,700 contingency for a total budget of $194,700.
On Monday, Mayor John Ruttan and council members heard concerns about the cost of the project from Nanaimo Ratepayers Association vice-president Jim Taylor, and some on council had their own concerns about potential hidden costs that could be discovered after work on the building begins.
Council voted 6-3 in March to proceed with $160,000 in repairs to the city-owned building to replace stucco cladding on one of the building walls, plus repairs to the brick veneer and chimney. The move was considered a stop-gap measure to ensure the building was safe, while also allowing approximately 30 community arts groups the chance to continue to use the venue. A previous engineering report showed that about $800,000 was needed to fully repair the building.
Taylor said his group is concerned costs could balloon as renovations go forward and further issues with the building come to light. Full hazardous materials and seismic assessments of the building have not been done, Taylor said. He added that costs associated with addressing any issues that come out of those assessments could push the cost for full repairs into the $2-million range.
Some on council agreed with Taylor's warnings.
"This is just the beginning," warned Coun. Bill McKay. "This building is the bus you found in the farmer's field, with a tree growing up where the steering wheel should be."
"I was against it then, I'm against it now. This is a perfect example of what we're going to face moving forward."
City manager Ted Swabey said the building code has changed since the city purchased the building. He said there may be costs "we don't know a lot about until we get into the building," although he said the city has done some work to evaluate seismic and hazardous material issues. He also said there added costs involved with maintaining and upgrading assets like community buildings on an ongoing basis. Community services general manager Tom Hickey said a hazardous materials assessment would be part of the current contract to do partial renovations to the building. However, the assessment would not be done for the entire building, he said in response to a question from Coun. Bill Bestwick.
Bestwick said he was comfortable proceeding with the partial renovation work as long as it is done to determine what the total eventual costs would be.
"I don't want to be sitting here piecemealing this thing," he said.
Coun. Fred Pattje, chair of the cultural committee, put forward a motion to get more information from staff members before making a further decision. The motion passed 6-3.
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