Station House future in limbo

Council seeks more information on the needed repairs and cost estimates

Contractors may soon have an opportunity to bid on the repair work needed at the Hope Station House.

Council will be voting on Jan. 26 whether to approve a contract for AdvantageHOPE to manage the project and initiate a RFP (request for proposals) process. However, the issue is already gaining mixed reactions at the council table.

“I’d love to see it fixed but I don’t think the District of Hope can finance it,” said Coun. Bob Erickson during a discussion on the topic at Monday’s council meeting. “It’s a major overall.”

Both Erickson and Coun. Heather Stewin are concerned about cost estimates multiplying and making a decision on the building’s future without getting more information.

“The district is taking on a huge liability,” Erickson added.

Councillors Donna Kropp and Dusty Smith support the RFP process in order to get more information on the cost of repairs. They would like to see the Station House’s heritage preserved and used in a capacity that benefits the community. Kropp pointed out that over the last several years, residents have expressed a desire to have a tourist information centre at the Station House. In order to do so, a building retrofit is needed.

Coun. Gerry Dyble also supports the RFP process in order to make an informed decision on the future use of the Station House.

“The building is ours so no matter where we stand at this point in time,” she said. “We now must decide what we’re going to do with this piece of property, whether we tear it down or put money into it.”

Mayor Wilfried Vicktor pointed out that there will have to be significant realignment of the entrance/exit of the site to accommodate trailers and RV’s. He suggested that aspect of the project be included in the RFP so that it doesn’t “dwarf costs.”

Last November, the Station House Society officially turned over control and operation of the building to the District of Hope. The municipality signed a new lease with the provincial Transportation Finance Authority (TFA) and has since transferred utilities, undertaken emergency repairs to the heating system, and had the building insured and included in a routine maintenance schedule.

The previous council has already decided to include $114,000 in the 2015 budget in order to undertake the estimated repairs/modifications required to use the building as a tourism centre and museum. However, chief administrative officer John Fortoloczky said that money won’t be spent without the current council’s approval.

Two studies have been conducted as to the level and cost of repairs that are likely required to ensure safe occupation and use of the Station House. The first is a report produced for the TFA which indicated up to $91,482 worth of repair costs with no change to the operational use of the Station House from the Society. The second report, which council directed staff to obtain, was from a  structural engineer and identified certain structural, code, building envelope, and maintenance concerns. However, they were unable to estimate a cost to repair any deficiencies without a much more detailed (and costly) study involving the removal of siding.

Fortoloczky said an RFP process avoids the district spending more funds on detailed engineering reports as proponents would conduct their own research and provide their own proposed engineering solutions with defined cost estimates.

Tammy Shields, executive director of AdvantageHOPE, pointed out that the urgency to move forward quickly with this project is mainly to prevent duplication of spending.

“We don’t want to see repairs go into the current location, only to move out in a short time,” she said after the meeting. “Operating costs are being incurred by the district while the building sits idle and without addressing the deficiencies, the condition will only continue to further deteriorate, increasing project expenses overall. Not to mention, the longer it sits there like that, the more people are greeted by the property in its current state.”

Shields believes the Station House project is important because the community only has one opportunity to make a first impression with visitors. A better first impression will have a positive impact on their behaviour here, she said, which leads to more economic benefit to the town.

“The new, higher visibility location will mean that we can influence even more visitors to our community than at the present location, again very important to our town’s economy,” she added. “Without a viable plan for a community use in the building, we are at risk of losing a landmark building with historical importance to the community. The larger floor area allows for expanded scope of services available, more broadly serving the community and not just visitors.”

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