Renovations at Revelstoke City Hall have come to a halt after the city ran out of money to complete them.
Announced on June 5, 2013, the renovations were part of a restructuring overhaul at city hall designed to improve customer service.
The idea was to create a new public entrance on Second Street East where those accessing city services could have a one-stop-shop experience. For example, you could apply for a building permit, a building inspection or a business licence in the new office.
Tim Palmer, Chief Administrative Officer for the City of Revelstoke, told the Times Review that the city ran out of money, and that there is no firm estimate available on when work will resume. He said the city will explore budgeting more for the renovations in the 2014 budget. If so, that means work isn’t likely to resume until at least April, 2014, likely later.
Palmer said that tax assessment appeals had hit the city’s budget hard, causing the city to pull back from the renovations. “I had significant concerns about what the impact was from the assessment,” Palmer said. This contributed to a decision to stop the renovations.
Palmer said an “anonymous” complaint about asbestos contamination also caused delays. “There was a concern that there may be asbestos [contamination] from the demolition that occurred,” Palmer said. “It caused a little bit of delay.”
Palmer said no asbestos contamination has been detected, but testing is ongoing in other parts of the building slated for renovations. There is particular concern about renovations completed when the old fire hall was removed from the building.
“We will be testing in other areas that will be potentially under construction,” Palmer said.
When the renovations were announced in June, the Times Review asked for a budget for the renovation project, but were told none was available. In a Nov. 21 interview, Palmer said a dollar value for the renovations is still not available, but might be in a planned update for council in the coming weeks.
The renovations began hastily; the planning department was already being renovated in June by the time council was briefed on the restructuring plan.
So far, the planning department has been gutted. That means staff such as the building inspector, planning staff members and bylaw department workers have been relocated to temporary workspaces elsewhere in the building. Palmer said staff are “managing quite well” in spite of it.
The city last week announced a new development services manager had been hired (see story on page four) and will start at the end of November. The new position was announced in June.
Developer says customer focus not apparent
At least one client conducting business with the now-gutted city planning department feels the city’s customer service is diminished as a result.
Peter Humphreys is no stranger to public feuds with city hall. He owns the former PT Market building, and is the wordsmith behind its big black sign. The sign earned him a high-profile battle with the planning department over its legality.
Humphreys told the Times Review he’s seeking to generate community conversation about city processes.
He submitted a development permit application to the city soon after the departure of former planning director John Guenther. The proposal was to split the PT Market building into smaller retail stores. His proposal concept included a Starbuck’s retail location, for example.
He said he’s experienced delays and letter-of-the-law bureaucratic responses.
“You didn’t submit a paint chip with your application,” Humphreys gave as an example. “You didn’t submit a rock sample.” He’s lost a potential tenant due to the delays, he said.
Humphreys said he hasn’t seen a customer service focus since the restructuring; he submits his paperwork, waits, then gets a long list of deficiencies sent to him.
Humphreys also questioned the staffing levels in the city’s planning department, saying staff seemed overwhelmed with their workload.
In the end, he abandoned his redevelopment plan due to zoning issues and is exploring new concepts for the site, such as accommodations.
“It just sits there empty and I can’t use it for anything,” Humphreys said.