$80K more from North Cowichan needed to finish visitor centre

North Cowichan will ante up an additional $80,000 to complete the Chemainus Visitor Information Centre at Waterwheel Park.

Municipal staff came to council on May 6 with a request for $40,000 from the Forest Legacy Fund and $40,000 from unappropriated surplus and, after some explanation from CAO Dave Devana, it was decided to go ahead.

The information centre is currently located at the old fire hall but the old fire hall is scheduled for demolition in the fall of 2015 as the building has reached the end of its useful life, and the lot is the proposed future site of the Chemainus branch of the Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL), Devana said in a report accompanying the request for the money.

Coun. Joyce Behnsen was okay with the $40,000 from the Forest Legacy Fund but drew the line at any more.

"Is this North Cowichan’s project, to pay for this?" she asked.

Devana explained that the municipality had to face that the building would not open without the full financial top-up.

In 2012 North Cowichan council provided the Chemainus Valley Historical Society (Museum) with $150,000 from the Land Sales Reserve Fund as a grant towards construction of a new information centre next to the museum’s planned expansion project.

In 2013 North Cowichan provided a grant-in-aid of $20,000 to assist with increased costs related to the foundation for the museum expansion and the info centre.

At a Feb. 12, 2015 council meeting, North Cowichan provided pre-budget approval of $60,000 for municipal staff to prepare a detailed estimate and assume project management of the Chemainus Visitor Information Centre project, Devana said.

With that estimate now in hand it’s now known that the fire alarm system must be updated for the entire building in order to obtain occupancy.

The final estimate requires $140,000 (including $60,000 pre-budget approval) to complete the centre. However, he said, North Cowichan will own the building and "in the end, it’s our asset."

Behnsen was not convinced.

"I don’t think North Cowichan wants to keep acquiring more assets like this," she said, telling her council colleagues that she sensed some exasperation in the general public.

The final design for the building includes 810 square feet on the main floor and 885 square feet on the lower floor to accommodate the info centre and chamber of commerce offices.

It is expected the project will be completed in approximately two months.

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