Open Victoria has finally obtained the complete consultants’ reports on Fire Hall #1 and Crystal Pool. The reports suggest that both City-owned buildings should be replaced, at a cost of at least $15 million for a new fire hall, and around $20 million for a new pool and fitness facility.
Download the Fire Hall report HERE (17.6 MB file)
Download the Crystal Pool report HERE (750 kB file)
The Crystal Pool report also refers to several supplementary reports. You can download a .zip of the supplementary documents HERE (40 MB file)
None of these reports is currently available on the City of Victoria’s website. Below is our summary of their contents. The page numbers are on the bottom right corner of each document.
FIRE STATION NO. 1 NEEDS ANALYSIS – MARCH 10, 2010
Page 7: The executive summary lists most of the major deficiencies with the fire hall, in particular, that it doesn’t have enough space for equipment, its doorways could collapse in a major earthquake and prevent fire trucks from exiting, much of the building does not meet current code, and it’s too small to properly serve as a department headquarters.
Page 8: Consultants provide five development options, from $4.55 million for a minimal seismic upgrade, to $6.6 million for an upgrade that would meet “post-disaster” requirements, to $16.3 million for a new facility on a new site.
Page 17: The structural assessment, dated September 28, 2009, notes that the building received a major seismic upgrade between 1995 and 1998, but that the design approach in the B.C. Building Code for “post-disaster” emergency-services facilities has changed.
Page 19: The headroom above the apparatus bay doors “is very tight and any deformation of the door frame may prevent a clean exit of the trucks.” The dispatch area also does not meet post-disaster code requirements, and the lower truck service bays are “rated at high risk to suffer damage due to the collapse of the hose tower.”
Page 20: During a major seismic event, the chief’s office is “at moderate risk of being unserviceable” and the six-storey hose-drying tower is “at high risk of falling onto the main apparatus building complex”.
Page 21: “[D]uring a major seismic event, the fire station building as a whole will not be serviceable. i.e. Although the risk to occupants is considered low to moderate, displacements may be such to render the building unable to perform effectively as a fire station.”
Page 29: The mechanical assessment, dated September 2009, says “The mechanical systems [water, ventilation, heating and cooling] for the building at present will not be able to support a post disaster operation.”
Page 83: A “needs analysis” of the fire hall identifies many shortcomings, including narrow single-entrance/exit apparatus bays, inadequate protection of equipment from contamination, and poor training facilities.
Page 101: Detailed costs for upgrading or replacing the facility. The consultants favour a new building, costing at least $15 million: “This report finds that the renovation of the existing facility to meet all of the programmatic deficiencies and to widen, lengthen, and raise the height of the apparatus bays to be not practical.”
CRYSTAL POOL EVALUATION REPORT – JULY 14, 2011
Page 2: Consultants state that Crystal Pool does not meet the current programming requirements of modern aquatic centres, its mechanical and electrical systems have reached the point of failure, and the facility “is at the end of its effective life”. In addition, even if the City attempts to extend the pool’s lifespan, the City is assuming risk. “A major failure could be expected at any given time, with possible results being immediate shutdown, interruptions to programming, and liability (lawsuit).”
Page 3: The pool is “well below” current seismic requirements. “The concrete delaminations noted in the walls adjacent to the tot’s pool pose a falling hazard”, and “the mechanical systems in general are dated, in poor or very poor condition, and are not considered to have any remaining servicable life or value.”
Page 4: “[T]he majority of the [mechanical] systems are either in immediate need of replacement, or are expected to require major repairs and/or complete replacement in the near future.” The consultants identify two drain covers that pose a “life safety” risk, and that the pool’s electrical systems “have mostly surpassed their life expectancy”, in particular, power distribution panels that “present a safety hazard to building operators and the public.” “The fire alarm system should be replaced in its entirety.”
Pages 13 and 14: The consultants identify earlier reports about the facility, especially one completed by BKG Consulting in July 2000. BKG said the City had four options: A) do nothing; B) carry out essential work; C) improve and enlarge; and D) replace the facility. “It is imperative to note that this report was completed ten years ago, and knowing that Options C and D were not carried out, we have now reached the point at which this report has indicated failure.” The consultants credit City staff for keeping the building operating, and note that some essential work has been done, but assert that the facility is “still at the point of imminent failure”.
Page 49: Consultants outline three options: decommission the pool for $450,000; extend its life for five years for $6.8 million, which does not address all its life safety issues or eliminate risks of liability or shutdown; or upgrade the facility for $22.5 million, which would extend its life for 50 years but interrupt programming while the work occurs. “Considering value for money, a replacement facility would serve the city and its residents better.”
What would a new pool cost? In 2009, the City applied for federal stimulus funds for a $58-million replacement facility. However, in Appendix L of the Crystal Pool report cited above, consultants identify several recently completed projects that are much less expensive, including an $18.25-million upgrade of a pool in Creston and a new $28.63-million pool underway in Burnaby. Contributors to the Vibrant Victoria forum have also identified new facilities built elsewhere for similar amounts, and note that Saanich’s Commonwealth Place would cost $32 million today.
At the very least, though, in 2012 the City faces unbudgeted infrastructure costs of $13.4 million — $6.8 million to keep Crystal Pool running for another five years, and $6.6 million to bring Fire Hall #1 up to “post-disaster” seismic code. If the City decides to replace both facilities, the costs will run to $35 million or more.
The City may be able to get some federal and provincial help for those projects, but the applications will take months to process, and upper levels of government don’t feel particularly generous right now. (In September, the B.C. premier announced a new recreation-facilities fund of just $30 million for the entire province.)
As we’ve noted elsewhere, the City can only borrow a further $10 million without having to raise taxes to service its debt. So it seems Victorians will be spending much of the coming years answering surveys and voting in referendums about whether to let the City borrow more money — or to cut up its credit cards.