By Trevor Busch
Although willing to sign off on the construction of an enclosed office for the administrative services manager, town council is still maintaining their opposition to any further improvements to the Administration Building in 2016.
At their March 14 regular meeting, town council voted unanimously (6-0) to allocate $10,000 from capital reserves to be spent on renovations to the Administration Building, specifically the construction of an office for administrative services manager Kerry Van Ham. Coun. Laura Ross-Giroux was absent from the meeting.
“The bottom line is the building is older, it’s becoming obvious that it’s older, it’s not configured well — assuming it would be very hard to get a big change to this building happening, let’s do some touch-ups,” said CAO Greg Birch, as part of a pitch to council for a limited package of renovations for the building.
The Administration Building is legally divided into two halves and rests on two separately-owned properties, one owned and occupied by the Municipal District of Taber and the other owned by the Town of Taber.
Minor renovations to the town’s half of the building have been postponed in recent years in anticipation of a major upgrade.
At least two attempts have been made to bring that initiative to fruition, including the forming of committees and the hiring of architects, but council has never agreed to spend the money necessary to accomplish the project. The building has continued to age during this time period and issues surrounding inefficient layout and other concerns have gone unaddressed.
During 2016 budget deliberations, there was discussion about the need to provide an enclosed office for administrative services manager Kerry Van Ham, which led to informal discussion amongst staff about other deficiencies with the building.
In a memo provided to council based on discussions with staff regarding potential improvements to the building, suggested priority projects included a backup electrical generator ($20,000 – $25,000), meeting room improvements ($15,000 – $20,000), enlarged IT room ($10,000 – $15,000), improved council chambers ($10,000 – $60,000), and re-configured space ($15,000 – $70,000).
“We’ve given away over $150,000 tonight, if you add up all these items here it’s another $150,000,” said Coun. Joe Strojwas. “Do we have any money left? No, I didn’t think so. I can’t support all these renovations, as much as I know this is an aging building and I’d like to see renovations done, I think we have other priorities. I think the priority has to be Kerry’s office, but I think the rest of the facelift items need to be put aside.”
Other ideas put forward in the memo included upgrading the public entrance, improved soundproofing, adding more natural light, improvement of insulation on outer walls, new paint, new flooring, moving Human Resources or improved soundproofing, improved aesthetics in the Town/M.D. entranceway (entrance foyer), improved washrooms, and improved ventilation.
“Do we have any idea what the M.D. is planning to do with their half of this building?” questioned Coun. Jack Brewin, in reference to the M.D. of Taber’s recent plans to create a new administrative complex outside town boundaries. “It could affect our future planning.”
Birch admitted that his knowledge of the M.D.’s future plans for their half of the building amounted to little more than conjecture.
“You might know better than I do. At one point I heard they were going to use it as an in-town office space, and have subsequently heard they are not. I really don’t know.”
Coun. Randy Sparks was also supportive of constructing an enclosed office space for the administrative services manager, but stopped well short of supporting any further improvements to the Administration Building in 2016.
“I know this building is in need of some changes, but it’s hard for me to support some of these when the cost estimate is between $10,000 and $60,000, or $15,000 and $75,000. That’s a pretty big stretch. The ones that are $20,000 to $25,000, I can handle that a little bit more, but not the other ones.”