White Building offer not dead yet, Nelson mayor says

The City of Nelson
The City of Nelson's proposal would have seen the city, Regional District of Central Kootenay, and provincial government all sharing space in the White Building.
— image credit: Courtesy City of Nelson

Nelson’s mayor isn’t ready to give up on the idea of sharing space in the White Building with the Regional District of Central Kootenay.

John Dooley will meet today with regional district chair John Kettle in the wake of this month’s 19-1 vote against the city’s offer. Kettle has suggested a joint session of city council and the board to debrief the decision.

“We’ll have a conversation and find out what his idea was around getting together,” Dooley told host Mark Stevens during an appearance Monday on Kootenay Co-op Radio. “I’m hopeful that through those discussions there will be some opportunity to have a better vetting of the proposal.”

Dooley re-iterated the city’s view that its offer wasn’t given fair consideration. He said a consultant’s preliminary report, produced within days of the proposal’s submission, was “not adequate” for the board to make an informed decision.

He believes the estimated $25,000 for a more thorough analysis would have been money well spent, even if the outcome had been the same. “If it’s properly vetted and is seen not to be the right move we can always say we did due diligence and made the right decision.”

In rejecting the city’s proposal, the regional district will instead renovate its existing office on Lakeside Drive at a cost of up to $600,000. But Dooley said that’s a five-to-ten year fix, whereas the White Building could have been a longer-term solution.

In a later interview with the Star, he said that when the board voted to ask the city for a formal proposal — following an initial pitch — he took it as a sign they were interested. If that wasn’t the case, he wishes they had said so before the city spent time, energy, and money on a more detailed proposal.

“If the board or staff didn’t see any value in going further than listening to the presentation we made, that was the time to say no,” he said.

He also wishes the city had been given a better chance to respond to “assumptions and questions” raised by the consultant and stressed the offer was not just about space, but a new way of delivering government services. “Adding the regional district would have been a huge step forward,” he said.

The mayor, who was away when the vote was taken, said he was “flabbergasted” to learn the outcome. “I don’t know if disappointment even explains how I felt.”

The Star is canvassing individual directors on their reasons for voting against the proposal and will publish the results Friday.

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