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Council shocked by library price tag

Council shocked by library price tag

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The Sechelt library renovation includes a narrow addition on the south side of the building that would have a new entrance. Sechelt Library artist’s conception

Update to this story:

(At the April 12 meeting of Sechelt’s Finance, Culture and Economic Development Committee, council voted 4 to 3 against the Library’s renovation proposal. That means that it will not be funded in the 2017 budget year.)

Sechelt Library’s proposal for a renovation got a rough ride at Sechelt Council’s Committee of the Whole on April 5. Councilors who had just spent the morning in a budget meeting struggling to find funding for a long list of capital projects were unhappy to be faced with a new proposal with a $1.7 million price tag.

Architect Vance Harris presented architectural plans for what was billed as a “renewal project,” not an expansion. However, the plan includes a narrow addition along the south wall of the library (on the footprint of the current pergola), which would add 500 to 550 square feet of new space.

The library plan features a new main entrance, new lighting throughout and an upgrade to the heating and ventilation system. It also reorganizes and “reclaims” existing space, including the space currently occupied by the Sechelt Archives. A (Class B) cost estimate, including contingencies, came in at $1.7 million.

Councillor Noel Muller expressed his dismay.

“This began as a $50,000 grant to deal with the front and now we’re looking at one point seven and change for an upgrade to a building that our strategic plan indicates that we’re going to vacate,” said Muller. “We simply do not have the money to do this.”

Councillor Doug Wright agreed.

“As I look back through the five-year financial plans for this district I couldn’t find the library asking for any money,” said Wright. “Now all of a sudden, like an emergency item, it rises to the top of the pile and here we are sitting discussing the library for 1.8 million dollars.”

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Sechelt Chief Librarian Margaret Hodgins, appearing before councillors, argues for a $1.7-million renovation to the library. Donna McMahon photo

Chief Librarian Margaret Hodgins defended the plan, stating that the library “has been chronically underfunded in a shameful way.”

“When you talk about all of a sudden this is on the radar, I’ll tell you what’s different: I’m here,” said Hodgins. “I arrived here [in 2014] and I saw the state of things, and I said this needs to change. We asked our public what do you think? And they said we agree.”

“The price does look like a shocker, especially when you hear that the building was built 20 years ago, but in the broader context of projects that are going on today, it isn’t as way out of line as it may seem,” said Hodgins.

Councillor Mike Shanks noted that three to five years ago council had discussed an addition to both the library and municipal hall, but plans had gone nowhere. He applauded the library for taking the initiative.

Councillor Darnelda Siegers, the District’s representative on the library board, also expressed support. She noted that the library can take their cost estimate to the public.

“I think we’d all like the opportunity to see whether or not the public is willing to support it with their tax dollars,” said Siegers.

Director of Finance Doug Stewart estimated that a $1.7 million project, financed over 20 years, would result in a property tax increase of 1.7 per cent.   Donna McMahon

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