The City of Prince Albert has left itself in a funny spot with its massive inventory of buildings.
The matter came up at council again on Monday evening as the city had an early opportunity to purchase a federal building that Ottawa no longer needs.
Coun. Rick Orr was quick to suggest that there was a potential revenue stream available to the city if it took over the building.
“If this is a serviceable building that is in good shape it’s something that the city needs to take a look at,” he said.
“In the short term, maybe we don’t need it, but it could be a rental space, or the downstairs area retail space could be used.”
In this case, his instincts were better than his timing. It’s not a bad idea for the city to be pursuing new revenue streams but the optics aren’t great on this one.
With the city desperately looking for ways to cut costs -- and some of the city’s many buildings entering that debate -- Mayor Greg Dionne instantly addressed the elephant in the room.
“I’m having a hard enough time getting council to sell surplus buildings, let alone look at buying another building,” he said.
The Margo Fournier Centre, the Girl Guide Hall and the Judo Building have all been mentioned recently by council as potential buildings to sell. While strong cases have been made for the Margo Fournier Centre and Judo Building, the Girl Guide Hall is almost certain to meet the chopping soon.
The waterslide at Kinsmen Water Park has also been a focus with repairs of more than $200,000 needed to make the slide usable.
What we desperately need at this point is for the city to release a report outlining what it owns, what it’s used for, what condition the building is in and a long-term plan estimating when each building will outlive its usefulness.
With that information in hand, the community and council can begin to create a more transparent plan for its assets.
Right now council is taking a more piecemeal approach, dealing with individual properties as problems come up or opportunities are spotted.
We think the city would be well served by a public discussion at a meeting about the entire forest rather than simply pruning individual trees.
In a case of extraordinarily bad timing, a report also came to council on Monday about a repair needed at the Alfred Jenkins Field House, the beautiful four-year-old facility near Victoria Hospital.
A design problem is already causing problems, public works project co-ordinator Don Cheeseman told council.
“The curbing between the flat roof and the peaked roof has failed,” he said. “Typically you have a flashing there -- there isn’t. There’s just a membrane, that after four years of snow and ice has failed.”
As a result, ice damming on the south side of the structure has been backing up and getting under the metal roof, lifting screws and creating leakage under the roof.
It couldn’t have been an easy thing for councillors to hear. Not only are buildings that are decades old needing repairs, so is the city’s newest facility.
But it can’t be a complete surprise. If we’ve learned anything this summer, it’s that when it rains, it pours.
Prince Albert Daily Herald