Harrison Hot Springs staff will be getting a larger work space to help workers get closer to a pre-COVID normal.
During council Monday (Jan. 18), Harrison council voted to use up to $75,000 of the village’s COVID-19 Safe Restart Grant to add an additional portable to the village office.
The building would “allow us to add office space and storage space so we could continue to work, and return to a bit of a sense of normalcy,” CAO Madeline McDonald said during the meeting.
Currently, village staff have spread out in the office the best they can, taking over the village council chambers as a copy room to create more space in the halls for people to pass each other. However, there still is not enough room for consultants and other partners to meet at the office, and filing space continues to be extremely limited — a problem that has been on the village’s radar since before the pandemic.
Back in November, Harrison Hot Springs received $675,000 from the federal and provincial government for the COVID-19 Safe Restart Grant. The village has until the end of the post-COVID recovery period, approximately 2022, to use the grant funding.
Harrison council has already agreed to spend up to $6,000 of that grant money to facilitate Zoom council meetings. It also voted down a proposal to spend $1,000 per councillor from the grant to compensate them for the use of their personal electronics for business purposes.
Other money from the grant is earmarked for projected losses in wastewater fees, water fees and rental income from Memorial Hall. Improving worker safety in office spaces is one of the acceptable capital projects the funding can be used for.
The $75,000 project would include an approximately $40,000 portable, which would include a meeting space, storage space and a washroom. The funds would also cover the foundation installation, plumbing, electrical and siding to match the other office buildings.
McDonald said that she expects the new office space would be adjacent to the historic house that is the bulk of the village office space. Access from the new building to the council chambers and the rest of the building would be through the porch at the front of the house.
“This would sort of buy us some time in terms of the increasing pressure to look for new and bigger accommodations,” McDonald said. “COVID really showed us that we’re much too cramped in there.”
Council was in favour of the proposed spending, particularly as Counc. Gerry Palmer noted residents indicated they had “no appetite to replace building.”
“I think that no one will find fault that this will extend the life and usefulness of the building,” Palmer said.
Mayor Leo Facio also noted that if a new civic building was constructed, the portables could be useful for other activities.
After this project is paid for, the village will still have around $150,000 in COVID-19 Safe Restart Grant money that is not allocated.