A new Qualicum Beach fire hall will cost $5 million, according to an estimate presented to council Monday from Johnston-Davidson Architects.
When discussion began on a new fire hall, said Coun. Scott Tanner, he recalled stating that it couldn't be built without a significant tax increase.
"I'm a little, I guess, disappointed in many ways," Tanner said of the architects' estimate, noting that the original idea was to build something like Nanoose Bay's fire hall, which cost $3.2 million. "Boy it's getting pretty expensive."
In April, Tanner indicated council was thinking the cost was in the range of $3.5-$4 million.
Mayor Teunis Westbroek thought the $462,475 for professional services included in the estimate seemed high.
"We're talking about half a million dollars roughly in professional services and, you know, if that was my money, personally, I would say: could I have a second opinion on this?" said Westbroek.
"I look at this money as if it was my own, and if it was my own money, I want a second opinion and look at some other alternatives as to what the construction might look like. We all agreed that we didn't want to build a Taj Mahal-type project." Coun. Davie Willie said his biggest concern is just that what-ever money is spent is spent well. "Architectural fees are 10% of the cost of the building," he said.
"That's just the way that is." He said he's concerned about the cost increasing but also wants to make sure the fire hall is fitted with necessary features.
Coun. Mary Brouilette said the council needs to think long-term on the fire hall.
"I fully believe that we've got a strong opportunity to get some grant money," she said.
The town doesn't need grants approved before beginning construction, Brouilette said.
Coun. Bill Luchtmeijer said the cost is "right in the ballpark of what our space needs study said. We're also talking a building that's going to be required to be in service for the next 75-100 years, so make it too small and we'll end up like our neighbour, who rebuilt their firehall and the very first thing they had to do was stick an addition on it.
That's not cost-effective. That's not smart planning."
Luchtmeijer said "the danger of suggesting that we should come in with a lower price" is if it loses the green design features or post-disaster construction, "we probably lose all of our grant possibilities, as well."
Westbroek responded that the fire hall could be built with those two key aspects but at a lower cost.
"As Coun. Willie indicated, we look at things and we are, I think, prudent to say: is there another option as to how much it's going to cost to build this?" said Westbroek.
"I don't think we're talking about cheaping out. We're talking about prudency, talking about financial management. There is this thing called debt, and I think the last thing you want is to put a community in long-term debt if you don't have to."
He said he's not saying the design is wrong but that, on behalf of taxpayers, the town should look into if it could be built for a lower cost.
Council passed a motion to engage Walter Hoogland as a project manager for the fire hall project with a maximum budget of $25,000.
Hoogland and town staff are to review the proposal to ensure the town gets good value for the money spent.
[STEWART BURNETT-OCEANSIDE STAR] / Coun. Scott Tanner (left) listens while Coun. Dave Willie explains that the cost of the new fire hall doesn't matter as much as that the money is well-spent.;
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