Council delays brick building breakdown

City to allow group in favour of preserving building time to look at options.

The brick building behind City Hall, set to be demolished at an unknown time, was back up for discussion during Monday night’s council meeting, after numerous residents and a group commented that the building should be preserved.

Those that hope for the preservation will get a bit more time, as council pushed the date for possible demolition until June 21.

A few weeks ago, council voted to have the building taken down. The city had a professional engineer look at it and estimate repairs at $135,000, which would only make the building structurally sound and not yet suitable for use.

At Monday night’s meeting, Coun. Gerry Warner argued that the city should put more emphasis on preserving buildings like this one.

“This city does not have a good reputation when it comes to protecting its heritage values and here I’m surrounded by a group of people that aren’t prepared to give this building a second chance,” Warner said.

He suggested setting a timeline for a group that has come forward with an interest in preserving the building to look at options. He also suggested an independent engineering report or estimate, as he didn’t quite trust the city administration since it seemed to him in a hurry to take the building down.

“I think we’re really failing the people of Cranbrook if we do this,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of public comments, all in the favour of preservation.

“Can’t we show a little vision and leadership here and save one of our last pieces of brick heritage in this city.”

Mayor Wayne Stetski said the challenge is that residents didn’t know what was going to happen to the building prior to council passing the motion.

“I’d like to give some time for discussion to occur between staff and this group around the actual costs and give them some time to come up with some funding,” Stetski said. “First and foremost we are public servants and we serve the public. What the public has said to me is that ‘we want some time to see if we can make this building into something better.'”

Coun. Denise Pallesen said that council and had put time and effort into this already. She went as far as saying she resented the statements by Coun. Warner about the city’s building inspector.

“I just think we’ve made a decision on this and I’m sorry this group is coming in late,” Pallesen said. “We made the decision to the best of our abilities and we looked at all the information presented to us by our qualified staff. I think the decision has been made and we need to stick with it. If this group wants to do something with the bricks then that’s fine, but I just can’t see spending more taxpayers dollars on it.”

Warner said that even if it is $135,000 it’s worth it to spend that money.

“Maybe this group can raise $135,000, maybe they can raise more and we can develop it into something the city can be proud of,” he said. “What’s wrong with that? But if we knock it down now, that’s it.”

Coun. Dianne Scott said council does care about the city’s heritage.

“It’s all a tough balancing act,” she said.

Council voted in favour of delaying doing anything with the building until June 21 to allow the group in favour of preserving the building to have a meet with city staff and come to council as a delegation if they choose. Councillors Warner, Sharon Cross, Bob Whetham and Mayor Stetski voted in favour, while Pallesen, Scott and Angus Davis voted against.