City of Powell River council is giving residents the opportunity to weigh in on the option of two locations for a new Powell River Public Library.
Public support of one option over the other will help council and city staff develop a referendum question for November’s municipal election.
Unfortunately, this is no longer so simple as asking the public whether they want a new library. Indeed, the question on the referendum will not be so direct. Instead, other elements have come into play.
An innocent suggestion from the city’s chief administrative officer to consider siting the library on the upper floor of Powell River Recreation Complex has unveiled a seismic can of worms. When the complex was built in the mid-1970s, it was completed to the building code of the day. Codes have changed substantially over the years and new buildings are now constructed to be somewhat seismically resistant.
Seismic upgrades to the complex could cost anywhere from $0 through to $20 million depending upon degree, but any upgrade is “voluntary” insists the consultancy firm hired for conceptual design.
Therein lies another complicating factor. The same consultants hired by the library board to determine a conceptual design for a library at Willingdon South were hired to develop the design for the library at the complex. Surprising to council, the estimates for each location are roughly the same, barring seismic upgrades to one site.
Perhaps having similar costs allows the decision to simply be between the two locations, however there have already been various referendums on this subject and referendums cost money.
By choosing only two locations for a possible new library, has council put all of its money into one wishing well? What if neither location is preferred by the public? Could a third or fourth choice be added at this late stage?
Directors from Powell River Regional District have signalled that they are closing the book on the project, so if a new library is built, city residents can expect to pick up the whole tab, even though the facility will be open for residents of the regional district to use as well.
Council has agreed to hold a public forum in early June to hear from residents about the designs and locations. For anyone preferring to make their decision in private, there will be the privacy of voting booths during the referendum. But, if this vote on the library, like ones in the past, fails, this subject could be abandoned on the bookshelf for years to come.