When Columbia Shuswap Regional District officials approved construction of a new office building, they were aware there would be some criticism, but didn’t expect the source.
Salmon Arm Mayor Nancy Cooper is airing her concerns now, despite the fact the decision to proceed has already been made and Salmon Arm council gave the project a unanimous thumbs up.
“I have been getting an earful,” said Cooper, noting people have been asking why the city can’t stop the regional district from proceeding with their construction plans.
“I voted against it, but I was very respectful. This is a beautiful view piece of property and just the wrong location for government offices.”
The mayor says that when complaints came from well beyond the borders of the city to the regional district’s Electoral Area C South Shuswap, she decided it was time to speak out.
“I totally respect them; we do want the CSRD office here, but I would have liked to have seen them on this side of the tracks instead of this site with an unrestricted view of the lake,” she says. “I did try to direct them to find another site because I felt it should be maybe a hotel or a couple of retail (units) and a couple floors of apartments. That’s what I did say to them.”
Cooper pointed out such development would add dollars to the city’s coffers and that, as municipal government, the CSRD does not pay taxes. But neither does the City of Salmon Arm.
“We are built on a site that was not bringing in taxes previously, because it was part of a park, so we weren’t collecting previously,” she said. “It’s not like we went out and built on a property where we could be collecting taxes.”
Charles Hamilton, chief administrative officer for the CSRD, says he was somewhat astonished to hear of the mayor’s concerns now and also surprised he has not personally received any calls voicing opposition to the new building or the site.
“At a meeting on Sept. 23 of Salmon Arm council, in Canoe, the regional district’s development permit went before council for consideration and approval and the minutes that I have indicate the approval carried unanimously,” he says. “If there’s such an issue, surely that would have been the time to raise such objections. But the report that I received was that the proposal was looked upon very favourably.”
He says the regional district went through the customary and competitive public process with the request for proposals appearing in newspapers, on BC Bid and BC Online.
“The fact is, the proposal to construct on the lakeshore was the lowest cost proposal,” he says, pointing out the project is a “hybrid approach,” that is a design-build-procurement land strategy whereby proponents were to supply a suitable piece of land.
“We’re cutting out the middleman rather than buying land, retaining an architect, tendering the project, then rolling them together.”
Hamilton says the successful bid by MMH Developments Ltd. of Salmon Arm was the lowest at $5.78 million. The middle proposal was budgeted for $6.1 million and the third was $6.6 million.
The regional district currently operates in three separate offices and officials had embarked on a process to identify a suitable space in 2008. It was determined at that time that the CSRD would need 25,000 square feet within a five-year period.
And while he maintains Sicamous, Revelstoke and Golden would relish the idea of having the CSRD offices, employees and the $3.1 million annual payroll in their municipality, most staff members live in Salmon Arm and there is already an established presence on the north side of the tracks.
Construction is planned for this spring.