Facilities Planning FAQ

Show All

Facilities Upgrades Planning and Construction

  • What is driving the need for facilities upgrades in Squamish, and do we have a plan?

    In 2018 the District completed a Real Estate and Facility Strategy (REFS) to ensure it has the appropriate facilities (buildings/structures) to provide the services required by the community over the next 25 years. During this process, it was determined that many of the District’s facilities that provide these services are at end of life (between 25 and 52 years old).

    Over decades, a lack of financial planning for the eventual replacement of these facilities, compounded by the recent rapid growth in the community, has left the District today with a significant challenge to fund all of the facility and infrastructure needs. (Read the backgrounder: How we got here).

    As a result, the REFS provided strategic recommendations to guide future decision-making to:

    • Prioritize future facility investments, and
    • Ensure that these investments were evaluated in the context of the District’s other capital needs for infrastructure (e.g. dikes, roads, water and sewer utilities) and financial constraints through the annual budgeting process 

    Future facility investment will require investment of $150M + (in 2020 dollars). See chart below for details.

    A Master Plan was then developed in 2019 that provides the “what, when and how” for this schedule of replacements. This is the plan that is driving the ongoing analysis and driving the recommendations to Council.

    Resources:

    The Real Estate and Facilities Master Plan (REFMP) is available in its entirety online.

    View the Executive Summary for an overview of this comprehensive plan.

    Facility Investments (in 2020 dollars) table:

     

  • What are the priorities of the Real Estate and Facilities Master Plan?

    The Real Estate and Facilities Master Plan (REFMP) prioritizes three immediate (0-3 years) critical facilities to be replaced: the Valleycliffe Fire Hall, Tantalus Fire Hall and Public Works Yard.

    All three are underway (construction or design) and funding is in place in the current 5YFP (2021-25). Learn more

    The next priority projects to schedule according to the REFMP guidelines are Near Term (4-5 years) facilities. These include:

    • Municipal offices, built in 1972 which are no longer adequate in size (despite new remote work opportunities) and function for the growing community;
    • Transit Maintenance Facility, required for local/regional transit expansion, to electrify the bus fleet, and to leverage $23M in federal/provincial funding currently available (requires a five-year lead time);
    • A Brennan Park Recreation Centre upgrade (phase one of a larger Brennan Park upgrade project) joins this list to take advantage of grant funding potential, realize significant energy savings and reduce high greenhouse gas emissions.
    • Brennan Park Recreation Centre (future phases: rink, pool, wellness centre) and the Library are important community buildings requiring expansion and upgrades (timing to be determined). These are good candidates for partial funding from grants from higher levels of government; such grants would require contributing funds to be provided by the District. Public engagement in 2022 will build on the feedback we received from the community about Brennan Park in 2018 and play a key role in setting priorities for these upgrades.

     

  • Why have facilities upgrades not been addressed prior to 2017?

    In 2017/18, the District of Squamish developed a Real Estate and Facilities Strategy, followed by Council endorsement of a Real Estate and Facilities (REF) Master Plan in 2019. These documents identified that the District’s facilities had reached a critical state with 75% of the District’s facilities at 25 to 52 years old.

    Over decades, lack of investment in planning and budgeting for the eventual need to replace facilities has resulted in the need for significant financial investments to be committed to now and in the coming years.

    Historically, common practice was to focus on short term tax strategies. Keeping taxes low was the focus at a time when the community was faced with the loss of high-paying industry jobs and a transition to a new economic future was the focus. While these decisions were well-received at the time, hard decisions about long-term planning and infrastructure investment were put off, creating a monumental task for future Councils and taxpayers.

    2011 saw the beginning of a more forward-looking strategy whereby approval of a long-term financial plan laid the foundation for future Councils to prepare for infrastructure replacement – pipes in the ground, keeping up with information technology, and eventual replacements of facilities.

    Recent Councils and District staff have worked hard to address shortfalls created by the past, and simultaneously respond to the rapid growth that has transformed Squamish and created a new set of unique challenges. Affordability, the need for local jobs creation, the need for more employment space for businesses and industry to expand, and the policy work required to help shape a climate change-friendly community of the future are just some of the pressing concerns of recent years.

    Looking even further ahead, the REF Master Plan identifies the need to begin rebuilding financial reserves for the next generation of facility replacements 25+ years from now, once the current facility backlog is addressed (or in 10 years, whichever is earlier).

    Other gains in the last decade:

    Read about where recent Councils and staff have made significant gains in policy and infrastructure renewal over the last decade, beginning on page 3 in the linked backgrounder.

     

  • What is proposed to be included in the 2022-26 Financial Plan, in terms of facilities funding?

    The draft 2022-26 Financial Plan includes funding for the three facility investments in the table below, which Council is currently considering. These items are a result of much analysis and master planning, and we have created a number of documents to help you learn more. Please take some time to review the rest of the FAQ and other documents. 

    View Report to Council and Powerpoint Presentation  (September 28, 2021)

    Read: Executive Summary - Real Estate and Facilities Master Plan (2019)

     

Municipal Offices Planning For Replacement

  • Why is there a need for new municipal offices (to replace Municipal Hall)?

    The District’s municipal offices are situated in a facility that was constructed in 1972 (the current Municipal Hall). This facility was architecturally assessed first in 2011/12 and then again during the Real Estate and Facilities Master Plan (REFMP) process and determined, nearing fifty years, it is at end-of-life.

    • Ongoing repair and upkeep require exponentially increasing annual operating, maintenance and capital costs.
    • Additionally, some areas require seismic and BC Building Code works to bring into compliance.
    • A full demolition and rebuild of the facility is required to make it operational for the next forty years.

    The size of the existing Municipal Office at 21,000 sq.ft does not meet current needs for office space. During the REFMP process and space planning, it was projected that the District’s future office space needs would range from 25,000 to 40,000 sq.ft. over the next 20+ years. Earlier preliminary space planning completed in 2016 projected space needs will reach 33,000 sq.ft. by as early as 2026.

    The onset of COVID-19 and the new realities (e.g., the ability for remote work / shared offices) are changing workplace requirements. As a result, the future municipal offices are projected at approximately 30,000 sq.ft. and incorporate a larger Council Chambers based on a hybrid design, allowing wider community uses (for example performances, events and meetings).

    In addition, staff are reviewing:

    • Locating the municipal offices within close proximity to other community uses including Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museum (known as GLAM) and Arts, Cultural and Heritage users (also considered within the future Library).
    • Leveraging square foot savings through use of co-locating with other Government and non-Government partners
    • Incorporating potential for a daycare and/or café (privately run in nearby private facilities).

     

  • Why is a lease for the municipal offices being recommended, instead of building a new Municipal Hall?

    In order to identify the funding options for municipal offices, three options were shortlisted as shown in the table below. Analysis considered borrowing capacity, existing reserves, raising funds through disposition of District-owned land, grants, federal/provincial contributions, sponsorship, property tax impacts and trade-offs that could result between other facility investments.

    The table green shading represents favourable or highest rated, yellow represents an area of concern, orange represents significant concerns.

    Based on the analysis, staff are recommending to Council that the District lease municipal offices versus build/own.

    The reasons are outlined below:

    • Leasing does not require the District to sell land to raise funds. 
    • Lease payments are considered an annual operating expense, which therefore would not reduce the District’s ability to borrow funds for future investments. This creates the opportunity to complete other priority upgrades such as Brennan Park Recreation Centre (BPRC) (e.g., Energy Retrofit, Wellness Centre, 2nd Ice Rink and Pool Expansion) and the Library within a reasonable time frame; the goal is before 2030, depending on the amount of external grant funding available. If the District built and owned a new municipal office building, there is not projected to be enough borrowing capacity available to complete the BPRC projects and the Library both within this time frame, and choices would be required. 
    • A joint Municipal Offices/Library facility makes the assumption that the Library expansion is a priority over the BPRC projects, and will result in an uncertain timeline for completion of the BPRC projects. 

    This recommendation is also based on:

    • Projected increase in taxes to support a lease (2.4%) is comparable to the projected increase in taxes to make annual debt repayments if the District was to own the facility (2.6%) and significantly less than a joint facility (5.2%).
    • Does not tie the District into a lease in perpetuity, a purchase can be pursued at a later date. 
    • Does not close the door on the District owning the Municipal Offices (especially if new funding opportunities are discovered) or exploring space partnering opportunities. 
    • Frees up District funds to allocate sustainability measures (e.g., carbon embodiment and GHGe savings) on facilities. 
    • Focuses highest chance of obtaining external grant funds on facilities that are high candidates for such funding; for example, there is significantly more grant funding available for community recreation centres or libraries versus municipal offices. 
    • Provides mitigation against construction escalation costs beyond the District’s control. 
    • Delays the sale of District land assets to enable the possibility of other funding sources such as fundraising and developer contributions through Community Amenity Contributions (to be explored).

     

  • What would leasing municipal hall look like?

    Municipal Hall is comprised largely of office space, with a meeting space and public audience area for Council meetings. 

    The District advertised an Expression of Interest in February 2020 to identify possible opportunities on developer-owned lands.    

    District staff are currently analysing these opportunities where leased office space could be built and available in a 3-5 year timeframe.

    • Although several possibilities exist and no decisions have been made yet,  it is possible that negotiations for a future location could need to begin in 2022.
    • Seeking Council endorsement to move forward with a lease will allow District staff to engage in any negotiations that may result.

    A lease is expected to have a long enough term to provide stability for the municipal offices yet provide the District with the option to either:

    • (1) Purchase the space at a later date when the District has built/updated other key facilities; or
    • (2)  Terminate the agreement at a later date if another purchase opportunity presents itself.

     

Transit Maintenance Facility Planning

  • Why is a Transit Maintenance Facility needed and how much will it cost taxpayers?

    The proposed Transit Maintenance Facility consists of an approximately 28,000 sq. ft. facility, ideally situated on five acres of land. 

    The proposed facility is required to enable the District to expand its transit services beyond 2024/25 when the current facility will reach capacity.

    Expansion of transit over the coming years is a key component of addressing climate change.

    • Transit route expansion within Squamish and future regional transit services cannot be achieved without the new Maintenance Facility. 
    • The expanded facility will enable the electrification of the entire bus fleet in the future.

    BC Transit will construct the facility, and requires that a municipality provide a commitment five years in advance.

    Cost 

    The estimated project cost is $35M.

    • BC Transit is offering $15M in funding.
    • There is currently an opportunity to obtain an additional $8M in federal government funding.
    • This would leave the District to contribute $12M towards this investment.

    The District has the option to make a one-time upfront payment of $12M or an annual payment of approximately $530K over 30 years. The Real Estate and Facilities Strategy recommends that the District utilize external funding, wherever possible, in order to preserve borrowing capacity and land dispositions. This strategy aims to enable a greater number of facilities projects to be completed in a reasonable time period.

    Given BC Transit has offered a choice, the recommendation in front of Council is for the District to fund its portion through the annual payment option (approximately $530K over 30 years), preserving $12.5M in borrowing or future land dispositions.

    Based on this approach there is an anticipated 1.4% tax increase in 2026 to fund the Transit Maintenance investment.

     

  • Why is this facility investment being discussed now when it is not in the draft Financial Plan until 2026?

    Any major project should be in a Five Year Financial Plan in order to effectively plan ahead. This helps to ensure that work is planned out in a sustainable and efficient way, and ensures that taxes do not fluctuate greatly from year to year. It also provides the District with lead time in order to seek and apply for grant funding for projects.

    In the particular case of the Transit Maintenance Facility, the project would be constructed by BC Transit. A municipality is required to provide a commitment five years in advance. The facility would be required to show up in the District's current plan in order for BC Transit to commit funding. 

    There is also an opportunity to obtain $8M in federal funding in addition to the $15M from BC Transit. Committing to this project within this upcoming Five Year Plan (in 2026) best positions the District to capitalize on this funding from higher levels of government. 

     

Brennan Park Recreation Centre and Library Planning

  • What is proposed for Brennan Park Recreation Centre?

    The District is acutely aware of the need for upgrades to Brennan Park Recreation Centre (BPRC). With the many facilities needing upgrades, additional funding through grants is being sought for Brennan Park. This facility has a high chance of obtaining external grant funds from higher levels of government (for example, there is significantly more grant funding available for a community recreation centre or library than municipal offices).

    BPRC is the main contributor of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGe) of all municipal facilities, accounting for 62% of the District’s GHGe per year.

    The first phase of proposed improvements to the BPRC includes a new 4,000 sq.ft. customer service area, renovations of the lobby, mezzanine, ice rink change rooms and roof insulation, ice rink/pool heat recovery system, a new elevator, and exterior lighting and landscaping.

    Future expansion plans beyond this first phase include the twinning of the ice rink, new pool, wellness centre, and administration building which would almost double the existing floor area.

    The proposed improvements in phase one will reduce GHGe and reduce operating costs at BPRC plus enable improved customer service and accessibility.

    The District has submitted a grant application to obtain $11.8M in federal government funding towards this $16.3M investment into the BPRC. 

    • If the grant application is successful, the $4.5M investment required by the District will be funded by a combination of the following District Reserves (savings): Capital, Land and Community Works.
    • Other future facility investments at BPRC will be considered during future years 5YFP budget processes.

     

  • How will the community help determine prioritization of the Brennan Park and Library projects?

    The Real Estate and Facilities Master Plan (REFMP) did not prioritize the relative importance of the Library versus the Brennan Park Recreation Centre projects/phases; they were all prioritized equally as ‘Core’ and ‘Growth’ projects.

    The REFMP recommended that the timing of these projects be determined by the availability of grants, along with further analysis regarding the community benefits generated by each project. The REFMP recommended that community engagement could support this prioritization.

    Community engagement is therefore being scoped/planned for 2022 in advance of the 2023-27 Five Year Financial Plan. Details and community engagement goals will be further articulated later in 2021.

    Public engagement in 2022 will build on the feedback we received from the community about Brennan Park in 2018.

     

About the Five Year Financial Plan (2022-26)

  • What principles guide the financial planning process at the District?

    Guiding principles for financial stability were developed with Council and incorporated into the Long-term Financial Plan – Guiding Principles and Financial Plan Policy:

    Stable and Sufficient:

    • Taxes do not fluctuate greatly from year to year
    • Revenues are sufficient to support long term goals for the community

    Sustainable and Equitable:

    • Investment is sufficient to sustain the desired service level indefinitely
    • Everyone pays an equitable amount for the services they receive
    • Cost recovery model is equitable

    Prudent and Flexible:

    • Financial decisions aim to minimize risk
    • Financial decisions ensure future flexibility to adapt opportunities and/or changing circumstances

    Efficient and Measurable:

    • Services are provided in an efficient manner
    • Successes are measured using indicators/benchmarks
  • What is driving the development of the Five Year Financial Plan?

    The primary priority drivers of the 2022-2026 Financial Plan are the following:

    Strategic Plan: Council’s 2019-2022 Strategic Plan outlines where the District will direct energy, resources and focus. The four priority areas are:

    • The Planet and Our Environment - * Climate Emergency
    • Housing Affordability and Diversity
    • The Economy and Local Jobs
    • Neighbourhood Connectivity and Public Spaces

    Master Plans: The District has invested heavily to develop master plans to guide its work over the coming decades. The result is a strategic approach that maximizes budgets and resources, determines acceptable levels of services, and establishes priorities to meet the infrastructure needs of our community today and tomorrow.

    • Real Estate and Facilities Master Plan: significant investment in the 2022-2026 Financial Plan will be the next implementation phase of the Plan with a priority order focus on investment in facilities identified as critical, core and support facilities.


    Safety, Legislative and Risk: Priority is given to projects and services to alleviate or mitigate areas that contain legislative impacts, health and safety concerns or a high degree of financial risk.

     

  • Why is there a focus on projects for 2025 and 26?

    Long-term planning is important to ensure incremental and stable tax requirements and ensuring adequate revenues to provide sustainable service delivery for operating budgets.

    The benefit of long-range capital planning is that the organization is not re-building or recreating the Plan every year, rather the focus is on building on what is already there as new information arises regarding potential grant opportunities, partner opportunities, increased internal funding dedication, and updated asset infrastructure information.

    For capital projects specifically, the longer range the capital plans, the more stability in the annual financial planning process for staff and Council. Having long-term capital plans allows the organization to plan ahead for funding and workflow, community outreach, and prioritization for projects.

    Although the District has historically created a Five-year Financial Plan as a requirement of the Community Charter, the District is working to improve focus on years two to five to benefit the financial planning process as illustrated above.

     

  • When will the Five Year Financial Plan be adopted?

    In order to expand the financial plan execution timeline to one full fiscal year and to improve the District’s competitive position in the procurement process, a December (2021) Financial Plan bylaw adoption is being proposed.

    Historically the budget process has taken approximately eight months to complete (July to the beginning of March) which constrained the time to execute projects within the budget to three quarters of the year, and resulted in projects being incomplete at year end.

    This late adoption also put the District at a disadvantage in the procurement and Request for Proposal (RFP) or tendering processes as competing organizations (for contractors) were able to compete contracts in market in the first quarter. Competing tenders or RFPs in market at the end of Q1 (March) or Q2 (June) results in fewer contractor options and higher contract costs.