Where’s the Beef? Here’s the Beef!
Ron Bolin: May 7, 2011
Re: “Politicians explain decision on annex”, by Derek Spalding, Daily News, on May 06.
I am puzzled by the city’s ability to leap from a call for expressions of interest based, as I recall, on some vague parameters, to an apparently signed contract, in a single bound. Normally, as I understand business practices, a selection of the most suitable expressions would be made and their proponents would then be invited to respond in a public tendering process to a detailed set of requirements.
While I do not purport to know at this time whether spending an additional $9.7 million dollars (162%) more than it would cost to bring the existing building up to standard is a good deal, I do know that neither I nor the citizens of Nanaimo have been presented with an adequate business case to justify this extra expense. Nor have all the costs been identified. Given the statements concerning the fragility of the existing building it would be unconscionable to sell it for use as it is apparently a death trap. We would thus, in order to sell or rebuild on the existing annex property, be forced to cover demolition expenses as well. The mayor has indicated that these costs would be considerable.
Citizens are not mushrooms and deserve the courtesy not to be treated as such by their representatives. We deserve a justifiable business case for this expensive option.
“Lying Is the New Normal.” James Howard Kunstler: May 2011.
The area around Wallace and Franklyn is on solid rock: I know from recent experience.
Although that does not rule out earthquake damage it reduces it significantly.
I saw the damage caused by the 1985 Mexico City quake after the fact. Buildings founded on solid rock, i.e. the 45 storey tower Torre Latinoamericana among others in Centro Historico, experienced almost no damage.
Most of Mexico City, Tlatleloloco, Colonia Roma etc, however is built on gumbo drained from the original Lago de Texcoco and the damage there was extensive.
Downtown Nanaimo shares an incremental immunity with Centro.
So, why replace Franklyn annex? Is it urgent?
Yesterday Norwegian Pearl docked at our new pier at 0700 hours and departed 1700 hrs. From my perch, overlooking all marine activity, the ship seemed to be void of passengers and very few appeared to disembark. Accordingly, I question the C$200k estimated economic benefit each cruise ship is supposed to deliver: only three more visits this season and given the diminishing state of the Alaska cruise business even those are not a given.
The point being, of course, Nanaimo is in freefall economic decline with council and staff grasping at straws: ergo, why not work over a convenient city owned oldie?
Apart from the expedient desires to tear down anything close at hand there are numerous alternatives as many here have pointed out.
VICC is under used by a magnitude.
Staff is not disinterested: salaries and pensions depends upon a never-ending flow of applications, approvals, bureaucratic, mumbo-jumbo to keep the wheels at 238 whirling.
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” Upton Sinclair.
Voters are impotent against this massive industry, along with an equal pressure from self-interested private sector. The situation has been building for decades.
As for systemic integrity, I leave readers to wrestle with that: a minority holding sway over the interests of the vast majority is not unusual in today’s “democracies”.
Once again, you have this Council showing it’s arrogance and complete disdain for the taxpayers of Nanaimo. This whole procedure has once again taken place in secret under the veil of an in camera meeting. Frankly, this whole bunch makes me want to vomit. I include them all.
It is little wonder that more and more people are abandoning the process of being involved with democracy.
Sherry,Bestwick and Kipp are opposed to building a new annex and will vote against it IF they get the chance.
Ron, you make an extremely good point when you write “Given the statements concerning the fragility of the existing building it would be unconscionable to sell it for use as it is apparently a death trap. We would thus, in order to sell or rebuild on the existing annex property, be forced to cover demolition expenses as well. The mayor has indicated that these costs would be considerable.”
I will wager that the old building will be sold rather than demolished. It is extremely fragile when it used by civic workers but will suddenly become much more serviceable when put up for sale. As people have noted in letters to the Editor of the local newspaper certain lives are rated as more valuable than others. It is also another example of the dead tree phenomena. When someone wants to cut a tree down it suddenly develops all sorts of diseases – the next windstorm will push it over. This happened to the trees in Colliery Dam that were in the way of the sewer expansion. I also remember that the buildings in the way of the Conference Centre also developed fatal flaws – worn out, architecturally undistinguished, can’t be rehabilitated, etc. To be brutally frank the bureaucrats at City Hall say whatever needs to be said to get their way.
The old building could become a tourist attraction!
Perhaps the hordes that land at the cruise ship terminal will stagger up the hill to visit the office/tomb of Frank Ney the father of unsustainable growth?
The tour could include a “virtual tour” of Cable Bay “Spa” & golf!
Add to this a quick visit to the CON ference Centre for the latest female over eighties arm wrestling contest.
I’m sure that Mr Ruttan would agree; the possiblities are endless.
A joke? NO. the system is a joke , a joke we allow to continue(behind closed doors).
I don’t know how it was awarded but I do know that it was put out for expression of interest some time ago – Summer of 2009 I think. If not, Winter / Spring 2010.
Anyway, let’s pick that one apart for a second… Not only is the space cramped and old it is also not up to code for seismic events. Truthfully, few buildings in this town are but that’s another matter. As the City has costed the upgrades to be too expensive they also have these other strange mandates about being green – one of course is they can’t just run a machine through the old building (or more fun blow it up) they have to take it apart at I might add a huge expense. Why, because the project including the new building is going for LEED Gold rating and as such they are bound by that should they even / actually go for the rating. So, not only is it expensive to demo it is also pricy to pull it apart.
Move forward to the new building – it will be designed and built to the new standards it will be more efficient and would / should save the tax payer money on maintenance and ever increasing utility costs.
Not sure this is any comfort but that would be my thoughts.
Mr Earp; I have no problem with being green.
I have no problem with upgrades where needed.
I have a problem with spending tax payers monies when not needed.
Yes the exsisting facility is dated & yes upgrades are required.
The question is do we really need to spend this ammount of tax monies?
The projected costs defy what you or I would be allowed to offer as a high or low cost the spread is ridiculous!
It would seem to that whenever this City is in need of improvement the first action is to tear it down & build another one regardless of cost.
The taxpayers pockets are not as deep as the aspirations of some of our Councillors.
We live in an age where we would be better advised to save dollars not spend them without thought of the future.
There are those of us that are concerned that the recession is far from over & that another bubble is about to burst.
To finish; lets tighten up our belt & use exsisting facilities (Conference Centre) to house those quivering at the thought of an earthquake.
Napoleon, Hitler Oceania, Eurasia, Eastasia, Stalin Mao, Peak Oil, Global Warming, Anthropogenic Global Warming, Climate change, leaky condos, Earth Quakes and last but not least Osamarama.
What would we do without our Emmanuel Goldstein’s?
For all the regulations, LEED Silver, gold, platinum we can always find the boogey man.
Mercifully Fukushima gave us the latest reprieve: earthquakes are the current force de jour although essentially it was the tsunami that caused the damage.
How come they didn’t press the panic button after the 1964 Alaska earthquake? I don’t remember them tearing things apart!
Somewhere, somehow our insecure, essentially unnecessary civic edifice will find their Triffid-like threat to justify their existence.
280 Franklyn will come down: of that be sure. And somehow they will rationalize the waste, the non-disposable rubble, belching exhaust toxicity, energy wasting transport for all their fancy new “green” gadgets.
It would never occur to our “sincere” yet sated “decision makers” who have long ago out lasted their shelf life that it is, indeed, their own very wasteful lifestyle, driving to the office, reserved parking, living way, way off in their self created sprawl that is the real threat to our way of life. And add to that the borrowed money to keep this charade going: borrowed money, now that’s the real threat!
280 may experience a few broken windows in the next tremble. It may even scare the planners, paraphrasing the Iron Duke, but it sure as hell will scare the mayor if he cannot get his cause célèbre.
Now if council were to repeal their many unnecessary recent flip-flops OCP, UCB, Sandstone, Golf/spa, Newcastle/Brechin etc we may throw a street party to celebrate the much over due integrity in the governance of this benign little town.
An engineering study concluded that the City Hall Annex would be at a high risk for damage during a SIGNIFICANT seismic event.
A walk around Downtown Nanaimo reveals that there are a number of buildings similar to the City Hall Annex – older two to three storey buildings of masonry/concrete block/unreinforced concrete construction. Are these buildings any more or less seismically challenged? Typical is 324 Terminal. It is a three storey building which is probably at least fifty years old. Does it meet current earthquake standards? How does it compare to the City Hall Annex?
What about the highrise apartment building just down form the Courthouse? It would have been built in the late 1950’s or the 1960’s at a time when poured concrete structures like this were not extensively reinforced. The Courthouse Annex (where most court functions are conducted) itself is another three storey building from the post-war era built at a time when there was little concern about earthquake safety. What about the older churches in the Downtown area that are now used for a multiplicity of functions in addition to Sunday services – daycare centres, drop-in centres, special courses, etc? These type of buildings did poorly in the recent Christchurch earthquake. Should they be condemned as unsafe?
What about the old brick and brick facade buildings on Commercial Street like the home of Nanaimo Travel? How do they compare to the City Hall Annex? Are these buildings safe for the people working in them?
The truth is that many buildings in downtown Nanaimo could be at a high risk for damage during a SIGNIFICANT seismic event. Engineering reports like the done for the City Hall Annex would no doubt identify many seismic deficiencies.
The City needs to have a consistent standard for allegedly earthquake vulnerable buildings. Otherwise we might suspect that there is one safety standard for us plebians and another one for City Hall poobahs.
Follows is a post I put on Nanaimo-Info-Blog this morning. I don’t know if the general public really knows or for that matter really cares what is going on here, but maybe this might open the door a bit, and let some light in.
I have also started an online petition calling for the halting of this project until after the next civic election.
City Council Needs To Quit Drinking the KoolAid Supplied By City Staff
I have no doubt that anyone who would let themselves run for city council have the best interests of their community at heart. I am also sure, that they have no idea what the job entails until they actually find themselves in the deep end of the pool.
Suddenly, they are faced with making some hard choices, which will in part be determined by their preconceived idea of the role between city council and city staff. If they are naive enough to think, that city staff actually looks to city council for advice and direction, they are already showing signs of drinking the staff-supplied Kool Aid. In fact city council exists for the most part to deflect all accountability away from city staff, who in actual fact are the ones making the decisions about how our fair city is going to be run.
To be clear, any reference I make to ‘city staff’ is not to the hard working, in the trenches, men and women who keep the wheels of the city turning, but rather I am referring to the select group of 150 or so who account for over $16,000,000.00 in wages annually, who must be creating projects on which to spend money or their reason to exist, no longer exists.
The most recent example of a city council manipulated by city staff, is the rubber stamp council has put on the $16,000,000.00 staff wants to spend on a bright shiny new office. This particular manipulation was so complete, that staff had this council convinced there was no need to discuss this matter openly in public. They further convinced council there was no need to have this item included in this years financial plans where possibly the actual expenditure of $12,000,000.00 cash and the borrowing of $4,000,000.00 might be open to public scrutiny. Very clever, these well trained civil servants, who have been able to dupe the public into believing they actually exist to serve the public rather than themselves and their own little kingdoms and that they take all their directions from council. Perhaps they have put some of that Kool Aid into the city water supply as well. City staff probably have a special filter on their taps at home, so they avoid the mind numbing effects of their potion.
A New Castle For The Kings
So, how did staff manipulate council into approving the spending of $16,000,000.00 which comes directly from the pockets of the Nanaimo taxpayer?
Firstly, they commissioned an engineering report to check the existing city annex for seismic stability. The findings? The building could have issues in the event of a SIGNIFICANT seismic event. The report does not include any actuarial data which would indicated the LIKELIHOOD that this SIGNIFICANT event will ever occur. What is a significant event? What is the possibility that will happen? What is the possibility it will happen during the 40 hours a week the annex is open? None of these questions are addressed, and if you know anything about an engineers report, they will always err on the side of extreme caution when making recommendations.
There is NO requirement that any of our schools or health care facilities meet the standards that were applied to this engineers report. In fact, there is no bylaw in Nanaimo requiring buildings, be retrofitted to the standard that this report calls for. But remember, the city staff was wanting to lead council and the taxpayer to a predetermined conclusion, which it to provide them with a shiny new office, high on the hill above city hall.
So the first step in this piece of master manipulation is to create an appearance of a clear and present danger, which makes the building unsafe for city staff and the general public. This would be taken more seriously if anyone on city staff or city council actually believes there really is such a clear and present danger. After all, staff have had this report since sometime in 2008 and clearly have not had any concern about the safety of the building for themselves or the public, witnessed by the fact they show up for work everyday, and invite the public to come in anytime they are open. This one, just doesn’t pass the smirk test, but then again, I haven’t been drinking that Kool Aid.
Step two in this piece of most skilled manipulation is to convince city council (remember this is all being done in secret, so the taxpayer doesn’t get wind of it) that instead of spending a mere $6,000,000.00 to bring the existing annex up to seismic standards (which is not likely really needed) they will have to spend $16,000,000.00 on a bright shiny new castle to offer safe haven for the kings and lords and ladies who run the city.
That’s the first installment of this little tale, but as you will see, this whole bit of stealth designed to get $16,000,000.00 out of the taxpayer, without ever having to be open and transparent about it, has taken the skill and cunning of a highly experienced city staff.
Yes indeed,this is a great post.I would suggest that the plot by senior staff to set aside public funds for their new office goes back several years and was most certainly hatched during Jerry Berry’s regime.It’s really quite a simple plan,the concept being to overtax the public for a number of years and put the cash into”reserves”,the end result ultimately being that staff can proceed without any input or approval from the taxpayers.Geez,these guys must lay awake at night laughing at the futility of this council as they continue to manipulate to their hearts content.Jim’s point about staff pretending to seek advice and direction from council is so true,but I guess as long as we allow it to continue we have no one to blame but ourselves.
Well said Jim . . .
Time to wake up Nanaimo . . . . . . .
In my darkest moments I’m inclined to leave structures as they are until an earthquake does destroy them. Perhaps, there would be some insurance money available to help with the reconstruction.
Perhaps a more positive approach would be to lobby for the less expensive structural upgrades to the existing building.
I had a chance to see the structure of the building once, during one of its many renovations. It is a very well built building. It has beautiful wooden posts and beams made of premium wood.
I was amused by a complaint that it didn’t have enough rebar. There isn’t a lot of need for rebar in a wooden structure.
Every building downtown that is undergoing significant renovations must be structurally upgraded to withstand significant seismic events. City hall is NOT applying a special standard to its own buildings.
What city hall wants is a new building. They are tired of going to work everyday in the same old box. It is very dispiriting to go to work every day in such an ugly old box. Other cities have nice, new city hall annex buildings, but we don’t. It’s sad.
They don’t care what the cost, and they don’t want another renovation to their stinkin’ ugly little box, but I think a renovation is the best use of our money. And if they could strip off that ugly freakin’ architecture from that beautiful structure, I think they would end up with a wonderful little building as well.
Question for Sunny Dan……..
Re: city is not applying special standards to it’s own building. There is not requirement to renovate existing buildings is there? That would only apply if someone wanted to significantly renovate an existing building. Can anyone define Significant and direct me to a study to indicate the likelihood we would suffer one here?
The 7.3 in the Forbidden Plateau ares, seems to have only shaken loose brick work in Courtenay, and I could find no pictorial evidence of damage in Nanaimo resulting from that quake.
In any case this does not support the building of a new structure as opposed bringing the existing up to specs.
The specs I read on the timbers in that place seemed incredible, 12 x 12 over a 16 foot span and I believe some even larger. And that would all have been REAL old growth wood. I would like to see the report that shows what force it would take to cause that kind of structure to simply fail.
I would far sooner be in it, than a poured concrete building.
Above all, the secrecy behind this whole deal, just stinks to high heaven.
Ooooppps better go take my meds, I feel a rant coming on.
You are right. Without “significant” renovation the city does not require structural upgrades. There is no requirement for structural upgrades for the city hall annex, as there has been no request for “significant” renovations.
“Significant” renovations are defined as adding more then 10% of the floor area to a building or the cost of the renovation is a certain amount of the dollar value of the building. I don’t know what that dollar value benchmark is.
Let’s face it, our city staff just want a shiny new building to work in. The earthquake preparedness stuff is another snow job. Saving us a bunch of money by keeping this whole thing under wraps is bullshit. They want this building custom built for their own likes, and they want as little interference as possible. They want to spend our money in a way that suits themselves.
Our new cruise ship pier cost C$26,000,000 including, I assume, the welcoming/office facility.
Each cruise ship visit is officially estimated to drop C$200,000 onto the city.
So let’s do the math . . .
In order to pay for the pier the Harbour Commission will need 130 visits (@ 4/annually unless biz perks up): i.e. 11 years.
But no worries, it isn’t our money: its a federal grant paid for by tax payers in Tierra del Fuego.
Now C$26,000,000 compounded @ 2.5% over 13 years adds C$8,450,000: so the pier will cost, in reality, C$34,450.00: thanq God it isn’t my money!
Ergo each cruise ship (if, indeed, the industry still exists) must drop C$265,000 in order to justify the expense and by that time the pier will need extensive maintenance.
Now does that blow all official economic benefits out of the water: or what?
And then there is the annex at a cost of C$11.8/13M, (contracted out of town, no less) that is supposed to be paid for out of a secret slush fund . . .
City Hall math sure is a wonder and . . . errrr . . . pigs fly . . .
Roger ; do you really believe that each cruise ship visit spend so much per visit?
I really have a problem with the figures of even $100 per passenger.
At $100 per passenger the last cruise ship benefited Nanimo to the tune of $140,000!!
Considering that (according to the media) many of them lined up at the Dollar Store others at the coffee shop!whilst four bus loads left town to Chemainus & McMillan Grove.
Creative accounting at it’s best.
. . . “do you really believe that each cruise ship visit spend so much per visit?” Hell no!
The other day I got a DNBIA telling me the Norwegian Pearl visit, a couple of weeks ago, was the best business day for downtown yet and WOW the library had a book sale.
“Considering that (according to the media) many of them lined up at the Dollar Store others at the coffee shop! whilst four bus loads left town to Chemainus & McMillan Grove.”
Good points, not to forget those floating casino/malls have everything aboard anyone could possibly imagine so why come ashore anyway: and according to my anecdotal observations most don’t!
I recognize that lower level bureaucrats cook the books to make like they are useful but my point is, even though the official spin is to exaggerate, money compounding makes short shrift of their official “irrational exuberance”. This fact seems to conveniently slip past their radar!
For much of the furry details council is intentionally oblivious: be it a luxurious crabbing pier or the wanton destruction of a perfectly sound, functional annex.
Spending other people’s money is the only way a desultory council can make itself feel useful.
“Creative accounting at it’s best.” My take too.
This whole affair is such an obvious slap in the face to the taxpaying residents of Nanaimo that it seems unbelievable it can not be addressed. One small example of the devious way this was handled is the fact, there is no reference in the original draft financial plan for 2011-2015 presented at the first of this year, in spite of the fact that the new annex is roughly 10% of the entire budget for one year!
The ‘in camera’ decision was made in March 2011 and the public announcement was not made until May 2, 2011. Coincidence it was over 30 days from the decision, before risking taking flack from the public?
The original engineers report refers to a cost of $10 million to build new compared with $4.5 to upgrade existing.
The ‘contract’ with Windley will not be available for ‘some time’, any bets on how ‘open ended’ it actually is? Unforeseen overruns and the like.
How’d we go from a guesstimate of $10 million by Herold to a $16 million price from Windley now, when there are supposed to be bargains in the construction business because of the general slowdown?
So asides, from just blowing off steam over this caper, anyone got any suggestions on some concrete action??
Neither papers are making any noise about it, and even if they did I don’t know what the average person’s response would be anyway.
Any ideas on how to turn this bus around, before we all hit the wall? Nanaimo taxes are NOT sustainable and I have the feeling that city staff’s idea of sustainable is: “we can keep this up until most of us retire, and then who cares”.
Paying another 20% in city taxes over the next five years, plus increases in RDN and school etc. is simply not sustainable when you consider how many people in Nanaimo are unemployed (now 16%), how many are on welfare, how many use food banks, how many kids depend on school lunch programs to get fed.
Personally, I find the option of simply rolling over and playing dead unacceptable. There is a proverb, I think, which goes something like “when good men do nothing, they get nothing good done”.
I used to think the problem was incompetence or malice on the part of city council which explained all our ills. I am now more inclined to think the incompetence is simply rampant among city staff, who are not held accountable for any of their failings. That is compounded when a council thinks they are capable of making multi-million dollar decisions when balancing their cheque books is the extent of their understanding of finance.
In a corporation in the real world, if you lost your firm $3 million, are you likely going to get a promotion? You would if you worked for the city of Nanaimo.
In the real world, a board of directors and the officers of a corporation can be held accountable when they are not operating in the best interests of the shareholders. Clearly, you could make a case for that with the corporation of the city of Nanaimo.
This insanity has to stop sometime!
@ Sunny Dan May 22:
Let’s face it, our city staff just want a shiny new building to work in.
For “city staff” read also Chris (working diligently in the shadows) Erb!
One of many local “eminence grise” pulling decisions their way . . .