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HomeBusinessCOVID Exclusive: Despite state of emergency, Vancouver city hall goes ahead with mayor’s elevator revamp

COVID Exclusive: Despite state of emergency, Vancouver city hall goes ahead with mayor’s elevator revamp


Bob Mackin

Vancouver city hall finances are in freefall because of the coronavirus crisis, but they pushed the “UP” button at 12th and Cambie on a plan to revamp Mayor Kennedy Stewart’s private elevator.

Plans to carry on with tendering came the same day that city council declared a state of emergency, amid rampant fear of both the disease and economic ruin.

Vancouver city hall (Mackin)

A March 19 notice on the civic procurement website reminded bidders for the “city hall mayor’s office elevator modernization” contract that the deadline is March 31 at 3 p.m. Applicants must now contact city hall by email to arrange a delivery appointment, because the city hall campus is open for appointments only during the state of emergency.

The March 3-issued tender notice says the elevator cab still retains its “superb ornate brass features and rich art deco panels along with the original cabin operating panels and hall call fixtures at each level.” Work will include replacing elevating device drive equipment, replacing heritage fixtures with suitable reproductions and bringing the elevator up to current building codes. The budget is not mentioned in the documents.

During a March 20 conference call with reporters, tried to ask Mayor Kennedy Stewart about the budget for the job and why it is proceeding at this time. However, city manager Sadhu Johnston took over the microphone and did not directly address the elevator tendering.

“What we’ve been trying to do as an organization is to continue moving the business forward of the organization while we address and maintain the critical services,” Johnston said.

He said staffers are being encouraged to work from home or cease activities.

“Up to now we’ve been trying to keep as much going as we can. And we’re going to be shifting next week to less of that activity,” Johnston said.

Mayor Kennedy Stewart (Mackin)

An attempt to ask a follow-up question, about the optics of proceeding while city services have been cut to bare minimum, was cut-off. (SCROLL DOWN AND LISTEN TO AUDIO)

UPDATE: On March 24, city hall informed bidders that the deadline has been postponed until April 28. But bureaucrats have scheduled a mandatory information meeting for bidders to attend on March 31. 

By email, Stewart’s chief of staff Neil Monckton said the elevator services seven floors and is also used by staff, councillors and the city clerk. He referred questions about the budget to the communications department, which did not immediately respond. 

Stewart has acknowledged that the coronavirus epidemic could be ruinous for the local economy and that he would be seeking aid from senior governments. On March 20, he announced property tax payments are delayed 60 days and the Vancouver Economic Commission is striking a task force to rescue the city’s economy, which has ground to a halt. He also ordered all restaurants to stop offering dine-in, table service at midnight or face prosecution. He urged Vancouverites to stay home or stay away from each other by a metre or more, but did not dismiss the possibility of ordering a California-style mass-quarantine.

CLICK AND LISTEN to Bob Mackin’s question about the Mayor’s Office Elevator Modernization

Vancouver city hall was built in 1936 and declared a heritage building in 1976. The elevator was temporarily out of service in July 2018, according to a memo from the city manager to the mayor and council at the time. The motor had to be removed and sent to a service shop for repairs.

A 2019 report included in the tendering package said there is lead-based paint on the door and walls of the mayor’s elevator and on machine equipment. The only asbestos found was in the elevator machine room’s plaster ceiling, but not the elevator itself.

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