Town hires project manager

Qualicum Beach council debates fire hall costs; 90-day eviction notice for caretaker at Heritage Forest still stands

With concerns about increasing costs ringing through the council chambers, the Town of Qualicum Beach has hired a local man, Walter Hoogland, to act as project manager for the design and construction of the new fire hall.

Staff put three recommendations related to the fire hall in front of council Monday night. One asked for the hiring of Hoogland, with a maximum contract price of $25,000. It passed. Another directed staff to seek grant money through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and other sources. It passed.

A third recommendation asking council to either allocate an additional $1 million to the project (bring it to a possible maximum of $5 million, still without any additional tax increase) or request an amended proposal from Johnston-Davidson Architects with a total maximum project budget of $4 million.

After passing the motion to hire Hoogland, council decided to defer the big-money motions until they could get input from Hoogland. Before anything was passed, some members of council expressed concern at what they perceived to be a rising budget for the new facility.

“I have a problem with a fire hall that started off at $3 million and now up to $5 million,” said Coun. Scott Tanner, whose motion earlier in the night to direct staff to bring information forward about a possible referendum on the fire hall was defeated.

“I’m disappointed in many ways,” said Tanner. “We were led to believe Nanoose built one for $3.2 million and we could drop one like that in Qualicum Beach and now we’re talking $5 million.”

Both Coun. Mary Brouilette and Coun. Bill Luchtmeijer, who along with Mayor Teunis Westbroek attended the recent FCM convention in Vancouver, said many of the grants available for projects like this insist the building is built to post-disaster and green standards, so building the fire hall without these features could cost the town a lot of money in grants.

Luchtmeijer said if “we cheap out, we probably lose our grant possibilities.”

Brouilette said she also learned at the FCM the town “didn’t have to have the grant approval before you started — the funds can come in at any time in the process.”

Westbroek was in full support of Hoogland’s hiring.

“We all agreed we didn’t want to build a Taj Mahal,” said the mayor. “When you are talking about this kind of money I don’t think you buy the first one off the rack.”

• Council re-visited the 90-day eviction notice they issued last meeting to a caretaker who has been living rent-free on town-owned land at the Heritage Forest for at least five years.

Westbroek called the eviction notice “callous” and “harsh” while Coun. Scott Tanner put a motion forward to rescind the notice and get staff to put together an agreement in writing for the caretaker.

The motion was defeated, but not before some pointed comments.

“This is an irregular situation,” said Brouilette. “The whole issue is not about that person — I don’t have anything against him. But before him it was someone else (living rent-free) and someone else before that. We have to start from scratch.”

Tanner, who noted he is also a landlord, said he was concerned about possible legal and other costs to the town if the caretaker refuses to leave the property as instructed in the eviction notice.

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