City staff’s proposed capital plan included four projects related to work at city hall. Council voted to approve spending but hold off on making decisions on specific projects. (News Bulletin file photo)

City staff’s proposed capital plan included four projects related to work at city hall. Council voted to approve spending but hold off on making decisions on specific projects. (News Bulletin file photo)

‘Rats in the basement’: Town of Ladysmith considers future of city hall building

Capital budget approved, projects to be determined

The Town of Ladysmith is moving forward with a capital budget, though council wants to review the list of projects at a later date as part of discussions about the future of city hall.

Town council, at a meeting Dec. 6 at the Ladysmith Seniors Centre, voted to approve the total dollar amount in the capital plan – $1.97 million in 2023, with $799,000 coming from taxation. The town will carry on with a general policy of spending 10 per cent of the prior year’s municipal tax levy on general capital projects, with an additional five per cent to general capital reserves.

A discussion point at the meeting was a series of capital spending requests related to the city hall building, which Erin Anderson, director of financial services, said is in “desperate need” of a new roof. Roof repairs would cost $150,000, and city hall also needs new windows that would cost $120,000 and replacement of the main HVAC unit at $90,000, and staff recommends turning the former council chambers into offices and a meeting room, a $75,000 renovation.

Council wasn’t prepared to spend on fixing up city hall without a clearer picture of the future of the building. Coun. Tricia McKay said she felt the roof needed to be done, but wanted to take a conservative approach to other repairs or renovations.

Coun. Marsh Stevens said city hall has required one Band-Aid solution after another. He said it needs insulation, electrical and plumbing repairs, “has rats in the basement,” and suggested the building is a tear-down.

“We need to get on with the planning, design and development of the new city hall, making the strategic partnerships in the community with other organizations if necessary to make it happen…” Stevens said. “Building a new city hall is maybe not a popular thing to do in the eyes of the public; it’s the best value for them, though, absolutely. Our people need to function, services need to be delivered. You want efficient staff, you need to give them the tools they need to be efficient.”

Mayor Aaron Stone said one of the factors in decision-making around city hall is the building’s historical value.

“The pragmatist in me can say that’s a really prime lot, it’s probably worth a lot of money without that city hall on it, but I’m not sure how the community would feel about that building not being preserved for some sort of future community use,” he said.

The single largest expenditure in the 2023 capital plan proposed by staff at the meeting was $400,000 for a sweeper, which would be paid for out of the equipment reserve.

Also, $250,000 is earmarked for the waterfront area plan, with all of that coming from the property reserve. Resurfacing of the pool and hot tub at the Frank Jameson Community Centre would cost $150,000 from taxation and irrigation improvements at Aggie Field would cost $125,000, with the majority from taxation.

Council unanimously agreed on the total dollar amount in the capital plan with the understanding that they can decide on the list of projects at a later date.

Budgeting will continue at a meeting Tuesday, Dec. 20, at the Ladysmith Seniors Centre.

READ ALSO: A brief history of Ladysmith’s city halls



editor@nanaimobulletin.com

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