On Monday evening Surrey City Council approved Corporate report and official lease of the first part the old City Hall Campus to the Province for Crown Counsel and Community Corrections. First 44,000 ft2 will be leased to the Province over the next 10 years with potential extension for another 12 years. All money which will come to the City budget will be used to repay portion of the loan for the new seat of the municipal government.
This is coming as part of the Lower Fraser Valley Court expansion plan and addition of eight more courtrooms to Surrey, and Mayor’s promise that former City Hall will be leased to repay for the new one. But citizens and the general public have a questions regarding what is coming to their neighbourhood and how it will impact the future?
If you go to the City of Surrey web-site and search for Corporate Report R075 aka “Lease of Old City Hall Campus to the Province 14245 – 56 Avenue File: 0930-30/383” you will find that this document lacks a lot of informations regarding lease and service which will be provided at the old City Hall. Also this report treats only one third of available space at the campus, one third could go to the RCMP if they decided that their expansion could happen at the location, while the reminder could be leased to interested third party institutions like universities or foundations.
When Councillor Barinder Rasode asked for clarification on community correction services during Council meeting on Monday staff came with hardly understandable reply, which was also cut by the Mayor’s several interruptions. Mayor Watts tried to give explanations to questions, as it often happens when she presides meeting, although this time didn’t helped much because it looked like even staff doesn’t have all informations available. Beside everything at the end we learned that community correction services will deal with minor issues mostly as staff said domestic issues.
“The council report regarding the old city hall lease didn’t mention the space will be used as a probation office and what impact that will have on the surrounding neighbourhood,” Rasode said on Tuesday adding that she would like to to see public consultation about the best use for the building.
It is important to say that neighbours are also interested to learn details of how this space would be used and what kind of offenders will be processed. For those who ever arrived to old City Hall by public transit will be easy to understand fears. This area is high density residential area with many residential houses just minutes of walk away from City Hall campus.
Presence of the RCMP in the campus could be insurance to the residents that nothing will or could happen but one can be careful enough when each particular offender is danger or not that much danger to the public. Effects could be devastating and bring more damage than benefits if it’s not implemented properly.
This again shows that Surrey municipal administration will need to open up public consultation process and ensure that transparency is at the highest because in the high speed growing community as Surrey is nothing can or should be hidden from the public not matter how big benefit would be for the City and citizens. Also much of the administration, City work, should be brought to the Council and open to the public for discussion because over the last few years we saw that much of it is moved to the committees which are either closed for public (Police) or at the some of them Councillors are threatening to shut down meeting if delegation is not up to their taste.