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Whistler council puts aside $50K to develop strategy for civic buildings

RMOW has engaged in studies to fit all required departments into its buildings on blackcomb way
The Resort Municipality of Whistler’s Public Safety building.

The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) is budgeting $50,000 to begin working on a 30-year strategy for the development of, and use of space, at its municipal buildings on Blackcomb Way.

The strategy has been triggered by ongoing reports and analysis into finding a way to fit all the required stakeholders into the Public Safety building (PSB) and neighbouring municipal hall.

The PSB has a long and storied history of upgrades and renovations and relocations of various departments, as noted in the staff report presented to council on Tuesday, Nov. 7.

First built in 1979, expanded in 1995 then renovated in 2012 and 2014, not including various upgrades over the years, the PSB’s most recent improvement was the addition of an all-new roof to deal with ongoing leakage problems, at a cost of a little under $1.5 million in 2022.

As explained by staff in its report, the need for a strategy was identified due to space restraints on existing users of the PSB and the resulting ongoing studies into what to do about it, including reshuffling departments to other areas.

The PSB currently houses the local RCMP detachment and associated infrastructure, various municipal departments, and partially hosts the Whistler Fire Rescue Service (WFRS)—though the fire chief operates out of a temporary trailer in the PSB carpark.

In remarks to council, James Hallisey, the RMOW’s general manager for infrastructure services, said staff was asking for a budget to create a longer-term plan to get things right, rather than deal with issues as they come up.

“We believe we need to advance a long-term public safety and civic administrative building master plan looking out into the future to make sure we’re spending money on the right things and in the right order,” he said.

Through an agreement with the province and federal government, the RMOW is on the hook to provide all necessary space for the RCMP to operate within the municipality.

Analysis into the PSB has previously resulted in plans by the RMOW to expand office space at municipal hall, to the north of the PSB on Blackcomb Way. The reshuffling of departments away from the PSB would include moving them into new spaces on the same site in order to create up to 6,500 square feet of additional space for the RCMP.

As background, and in explaining the need for a broader strategy, staff explained that ongoing works into how to expand space across the entire PSB has seen plans to work on the oldest portion of the building paused due to insufficient building standards from when it was originally built.

“The building standards used to construct the south end of the PSB (currently housing the WFRS) do not appear to provide a suitable foundation for further significant investment,” the report said.

The 1995 expansion was acceptable, however, and is to be included in ongoing works, staff said.

The report noted that strategic planning incorporating the PSB was needed to ensure the RMOW was able to provide the required space for all public safety and civic functions at its Blackcomb Way properties.

While it was the PSB analysis that triggered the desire for a strategy that would also include municipal hall, the staff report also noted that other key pieces of community infrastructure might be worth including too, such as the Meadow Park Sports Centre.

“Staff currently suggest keeping the scope of this project sufficiently broad at the outset to include key municipal building assets that are outside of the public safety realm,” it stated.

The council voted unanimously to support the staff recommendation to initiate planning for a 30-year Municipal Public Safety and Civic Building Strategy, and to include funding to the tune of $50,000 to come from RMOW’s general operations reserve. The funding will be included in the upcoming 2024 budget.