Coun. Bob Erickson (second from left) criticizes information presented in a staff report for its inaccuracy at the Oct. 10 council meeting. (X. Y. Zeng photo)

Coun. Bob Erickson (second from left) criticizes information presented in a staff report for its inaccuracy at the Oct. 10 council meeting. (X. Y. Zeng photo)

Lack of info, agreement puts Station House referendum on hold

A few councillors think a referendum is not the best way forward.

The Station House project made little advancement after the Oct. 10 council meeting where staff and council members were supposed to talk about the non-binding referendum.

Rather, Councillors Dusty Smith and Gerry Dyble spoke against holding a referendum, while Coun. Donna Kropp thought the referendum should be binding. Coun. Bob Erickson brought further evidence that a final $1.8 million estimate for the Station House was too expensive and criticized the accuracy of information meant to be disseminated to the public. Mayor Wilfried Vicktor proposed that the referendum wording include a monetary figure attached to it, which met with opposition.

In the end, council decided to put the referendum on hold until they talk about it at a Committee of the Whole meeting.

Chief administrative officer John Fortoloczky opened the discussion saying that staff have produced an information package meant to inform the public of the context surrounding the Station House. The draft comes with a timeline, architectural drawings, background and frequently asked questions (FAQ).

Erickson took issue with the answers given in the FAQ. Overall, Erickson’s criticism lies in the inaccuracy of assertions in the document.

His first criticism involved a paragraph saying that a phased approach would “spread out and reduce costs over time.” Erickson said it would be the reverse.

Erickson also took issue with the $500,000 estimate of renovating the current Hope Visitor Centre and Museum, referring to the $500,000 as a figure “pulled out of the sky.” The document said renovating that building is an alternative to developing the Station House.

Erickson also took issue with the document saying the sale of the visitor centre property “would offset project costs to a large degree.” He said council has not decided on whether that will happen.

Erickson then brought up new evidence that $1.8 million is too much. He said the “way more complicated” building slated for the property on the northeastern corner of Water Avenue and Wallace Street will cost a ballpark $900,000 and that the building where Canyon Carpets is currently at costs less than $750,000.

The District’s report estimates building a replacement would cost at least $2.7 million excluding GST. Operations supervisor Kevin Dicken also brought data from the Pacific Truck Crossing’s tourist info centre, which he said cost $185 per square feet. Dicken said this is roughly comparable to the figures they have for Station House.

Then came differing opinions on referendum. Kropp said a non-binding referendum would represent a waste of money, and that there should be a third option with a budget attached to it.

Dyble said that attaching a large number — $1.8 million — to the referendum would get negative responses from the public, and said that the public elected council members to make decisions on their behalf. She added that council needs to consider the vision of the community and also that the final cost could come in at less than $1.8 million.

Smith agreed with Dyble, saying that a $1.8 million figure will just get negative responses. Smith also said he sees the project going towards a phased approach.

Coun. Scott Medlock also agreed with leaving out the $1.8 million figure on the referendum questions for the same reasons. He added that the council has to trust the numbers given by the quantity surveyor because the District cannot put the project out to tender — a suggestion repeated by Erickson that meeting and in previous conversations — and then not pick a bidder as it would waste people’s time.

Fortoloczky suggested that council put the referendum on hold because the District will not be able to get cost estimates before the proposed referendum dates of Nov. 1 and 4. Medlock made a motion on this and to also host a Committee of the Whole meeting to discuss this, which was passed.

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