The building at 310 Ward Street could become a governmental hub for citizens with the City of Nelson wanting to bring regional government into its fold.
The City gave a delegation at a Regional District of Central Kootenay board meeting Thursday suggesting sharing the “white building” is an option for the governing body running out of space at its Lakeside Drive location.
Councillor Donna Macdonald addressed the board with the support of city manager Kevin Cormack, chief financial officer Colin McClure and mayor John Dooley, also a regional director.
Macdonald said sharing space would provide “substantial benefits” to both staff and the public. Class-A office space, central location, improved services to the public, collaboration between regional, city and provincial governments and financial savings are some of the benefits the City offered up.
“These savings will be a benefit to everyone in the region,” said Macdonald.
In addition to annual IT savings of $50,000 to $200,000, Macdonald said the RDCK could purchase equivalent space in 310 Ward Street for about 60 per cent of the value of their current building creating a $700,000 plus benefit.
The City requested the Regional District consider the option so any interest could be formalized by the end of December so that the move can be considered in 2014 budget discussions.
Ron Mickel, representing Area F, used to work in the white building as a provincial employee before moving to the pink building. He says 310 Ward Street is the “superior” building.
“What excites me is the location central to banks, the post office,” he said. “It’s central to business and I do believe more efficient.”
Director Walter Popoff has concerns about the lack of parking for his constituents coming in from Area H. While the City claims there are 80 parking stalls onsite and room for expansion, Popoff says RDCK staff new to the facility will consume some of those spots and in general, he wonders what option there is for further growth.
“It would be worth a good look at this with the long term in mind,” he said. “
Area A’s Gary Jackman expressed concern about the push to come to an agreement in such short time. His worries extended to how to “pull it off without a net loss in efficiency” from work environment disruption leading to less productivity on behalf of staff.
Said Macdonald, “I appreciate that a chance like this is a challenge… When the city did this, it turned out to be a positive move.”
While a committee was struck by the RDCK in 2012 to look at options about what to do about outgrowing their current space occupied since 2000, their current direction has been to stay and reconfigure.
After hearing the delegation, board chair John Kettle suggested the RDCK continue to “hold their ground” at their current location and “spend the next year looking.”
“I don’t think this will be overnight. I don’t think it will be quick,” he said.
He asked the delegation if the City had other options. Macdonald said they do “but they really want to make a case here because it’s the best option.”
The city bought the white building from the provincial government in 2005 and despite both municipal and provincial government services being located there, unoccupied space still exists.
The white building is approximately 53,000 square feet of office space and 5,000 square feet storage.