Following some indecision earlier this year on what to do about the situation at the public works yard, it looks like a temporary solution has been found.
The situation in question is the state of the site, for both human and environmental health and safety. A report by engineering director Patrick Graham at the end of January outlined several hazardous conditions at the municipal location on Carter Road, including rat and mold infestations in the work building, and contaminated soil and groundwater around the yard.
Graham outlined a long-term plan to revamp the site, including a new works building, garage, and environmental and security improvements. Total cost was estimated around $4 million, with a completion date in fall 2024. Council approved freeing up $190,000 at that meeting to conduct environmental assessments and begin the design work on the new structures, but walked this back the next week after deciding a financial decision of that magnitude should be made during the annual budget process.
Instead, staff were asked to find a temporary fix for conditions at the yard. In addition to the hazardous issues, Graham says the building’s insufficient size and the site’s inadequate storage and operating facilities slow down workflow throughout the day.
As it stands the public works team is split between the roads and infrastructure workers at the yard, and the utilities crew in the room above the library for their operating bases. “It isn’t our preference to have a divided work force like this. We already have issues with the divisions between an office and our outdoor workers,” explains Graham.
The utilities team is planning to move to a temporary trailer at the Cove Bay Water Treatment Plant once that facility is operational. This type of unit is the solution Graham believes would – right now – work best for the staff at the public works yard as well. During council's Feb. 27 meeting he proposed an on-site trailer would address some of the “most egregious occupational health and safety issues” with the current building.
The plan hinges on avoiding the need for a building permit, since the environmental damage has led to a permit freeze by the province until the situation at the yard is improved. “It’s not a permanent structure, it’s essentially supporting our efforts to rehabilitate the site – we have to move staff into this temporary accommodation while we remove all the materials and equipment from this other space,” explains Graham.
The director’s request this time was for $60,000 to install the trailer, and another $100,000 to conduct the environmental assessments. “Regardless of the need for a building permit it’s also Bowen Island Municipality’s responsibility to address the contaminated site and carry on with that work,” said Graham.
Mayor Andrew Leonard agreed. “Given the occupational health and safety issues at the site there needs to be a solution completed as expediently as possible. I also think that the spending to remediate the site will have to happen regardless. Given that there will be a design phase for a works yard, it does make sense to remove that obstacle now,” he said.
Council approved both asks in a 6-1 vote, with Coun. Alison Morse in opposition. Permanent plans for the public works yard will return to the 2023 budget discussions later this year.