Council candidate Dick Harrington answers a question during Tuesday's all-candidates meeting at Evergreen Hall.

Candidates debate moving city hall downtown

Most candidates vying for a seat on Chilliwack city council were against the notion of relocating city hall to the downtown core.

Most candidates vying for a seat on city council were against the notion of relocating city hall to the downtown core.

They were responding to the question posed by Downtown Chilliwack BIA at their all-candidates meeting Tuesday night: “As a councilor would you support a plan that would see the eventual re-establishment of city hall back in to the downtown core?”

Responses from the 18 of 20 candidates who showed up, varied wildly from unequivocal support, to rejection on the basis it would be “fiscally irresponsible.”

BIA executive member Alvin Bartel said the key word was “eventual” in terms of a potential move, and the goal was to “generate discussion” about the prospect of what to do when municipal government outgrows its current location.

A move downtown has been “bandied about” for a while now, Bartel said, and some at the BIA believe that moving city hall into the core would be the “largest single impetus” for growth in the downtown area.

“We saw some polarization on the issue, although there were also a few very thoughtful answers,” he said. “It was interesting.”

Ron Browne wholeheartedly embraced the idea of moving city hall to downtown in the next five years, citing its consistency with the OCP, and the Downtown Land-Use plan.

The candidate said the project could even unfold as a “public-private partnership.”

Other candidates who warmed to the idea included: Gerry Goosen, Ken Huttema, Ron Wedel, Phill Bruce, and Brenda Currie.

Mitchell Nosko said it would be a “tremendous waste of tax dollars.”

Ken Huttema said he believes the discussion of a new city hall “needs to happen” within the next 10 years.

“Council should plan for it,” he said. “Downtown could be a viable spot.”

But Chuck Stam said he didn’t support the idea.

“The relocations costs would not be in our best interests,” he said.

Ken Popove said “yes” to the move idea, but added “it has to make sense” economically.

Sue Attrill said a move would be “incredibly irresponsible” given that the current building is still “serviceable.”

Phill Bruce said “yes” to the move downtown.

“Let’s move forward with this great idea,” he said, adding it would be a “successful ending” to the revitalization efforts.

Garth Glassel rejected the idea.

“We’re in a recession, folks,” he said, adding it would be tantamount to giving up a good building for a make-work project.

Brenda Currie said “yes” to bringing city hall into the core, “since the city does own land downtown.” But she also advocated looking at the “whole picture” to ensure it was economically viable.

Other questions fielded by candidates touched on the role of CEPCO, steering developers to the downtown, hillside development and passenger rail.

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

twitter.com/CHWKjourno

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