The Regional District of Central Kootenay has rejected the City of Nelson’s offer to share office space in the White Building.
Following an hour-long closed-door meeting this morning, the board voted 19-1 to turn down the city’s suggestion that the regional district move its headquarters to 310 Ward Street, presently home to city hall as well as provincial government offices.
The regional district will instead reconfigure its existing office on Lakeside Drive with a space plan previously costed at $400,000 to $600,000, to be paid out of a building reserve fund.
“The board considered the fundamental question of whether the regional district needs to move,” RDCK chief administrator Brian Carruthers said. “The city proposal was evaluated against remaining in the [present] building. After considering the city’s proposal, the board decided the better alternative was to remain at 202 Lakeside and do the recommended renovations.”
Neither the city’s final proposal, submitted early this month, nor a consultant’s assessment of that proposal were made public, although the city may release its document following its next council meeting on Monday.
Carruthers said the consultant — Vancouver firm Omicron — offered some preliminary observations, suggestions, and recommendations. Although the final bill isn’t in, their fee should be less than $5,000. A more detailed analysis would have taken longer and cost more, but the board showed no appetite.
Regional district staff also provided some qualitative and financial analyses of the two buildings, Carruthers said.
Chair John Kettle, who supported the decision, said though the regional district is running out of room, the notion they needed to move was false.
“When we looked at the city’s proposal, it wasn’t predicated on moving,” he said. “This [present] building is paid for and we have money in reserves to do our space [reconfigurations].”
The city argued the move would save both local governments money and be more convenient to the public.
Kettle said the matter was dealt with in camera because it involved real estate negotiations and he hasn’t commented on the proposal in recent weeks though he felt some editorials and media reports considered the move a “fait accompli.”
“It put us at an incredible disadvantage,” he said. “It’s unfair to staff to wonder whether they’re going to be replaced, and unfair to Nelson staff to wonder if the regional district staff are going to take their jobs.”
While the regional district’s short-term needs now appear settled, Kettle said it does not prevent Nelson or any other municipality from coming back with further options in the next two to three years if the regional district continues to grow.
However, city representative Donna Macdonald said she was surprised and “very disappointed” with the decision, suggesting it is actually a five-to-ten year solution.
“I understood there was considerably more support around the table for giving our proposal fair consideration,” she said. “Certainly in my opinion, the window has closed for 310 Ward Street.”
Macdonald said the resolution the board passed in December inviting the city’s proposal also stipulated a consultant be hired to do a business case analysis.
“That was not done. The consultant did by their own words an initial review with comments and questions. No analysis. I just feel all the work city staff and council put into this proposal was not respected. We didn’t have the opportunity to have it fully looked at.”
Macdonald said the city has other options for the vacant space in the White Building, which she could not disclose, but bringing local governments together was always their preference.