City hall’s exterior is about to get a facelift courtesy of Coulson Forest Products.
“Coulson Forest Products is donating the material to re-clad the exterior of city hall,” Mayor Mike Ruttan announced on April 9.
CEO Wayne Coulson said that his company is donating $100,000 worth of cedar panelling to cover either the blue or the cement portions of city hall. The installation of the new exterior is expected to cost $35,000 and will be completed by city staff.
The changes will be cosmetic; they are not part of the functional renovations included in the 2015 financial plan.
“Whatever is done will dramatically change the look of city hall,” Ruttan said.
“We’re extremely pleased that the city would honour us in putting the product on the building,” Coulson said, adding that he feels that the change “is necessary for the community.”
Due to city hall’s listing in the Port Alberni Heritage Register, concerns were expressed by the city’s heritage commission that re-cladding the exterior of city hall with the cedar panelling would significantly change the documented appearance of the building. However, as the Port Alberni Train Station is the only building on the register with actual legal protections against changing its appearance, the only action necessary would be a rewriting of the Statement of Significance.
The statement is what justifies the building’s place on both the provincial and national heritage register, parks, recreation and heritage director Scott Kenny wrote.
Coulson said that upgrading the exterior of city hall is essential to promoting the community.
“You want it to look as good as it can. You want to clean the ripped carpet off the floor, you want to take the paint stains off the ceiling and you want to invite your guests to come in and sell our community as the No. 1 community on Vancouver Island.”
The cedar used in the panelling comes from the west coast of the Island, Coulson said, adding that his company tries to buy many of the logs they use from local first nations forestry operations.
“This is 100 per cent local fibre. It grew here, it’s produced here, it’s manufactured here and it’s sold here.”
The cedar panelling has been manufactured at Coulson Forest Products sawmill for the past three years, Coulson said.
The wood panelling is a new value-added engineered product, Coulson said.
“We take our lower quality cedar, we glue it together and then we take our best quality cedar, slice it and put it on top and glue it to the piece,” Coulson explained. “We don’t have a competing product in the marketplace for what’s going to be on city hall.”
Coulson said that the company is selling the new engineered wood product all over the world.
“We’re in many projects in downtown Vancouver, certainly a big presence in southern California. That’s where the bulk of our product, probably 80 per cent of our sales are, in the southern California region.”
Despite just over 30 per cent of total contributions to Ruttan’s mayoral campaign coming from the Coulson Group, Ruttan said that he wasn’t worried about any conflict of interest in accepting the donation.
“This is an offer that’s been made to the city in previous times as well with previous councils and we were in a position to take advantage of it,” he said.
Speaking after Monday night’s council meeting, Ruttan addressed concerns raised in a letter to council that the proposed wood panelling might not fare as well over time as the current exterior of city hall.
“We don’t really think so because it’s the same wood that’s on the exterior of the old Woodward’s garage [Coulson’s building on Third Avenue and Mar Street] and that’s been up quite nicely for the past couple of years and it hasn’t weathered at all,” Ruttan said.
“It’s an engineered product, it’s not just strictly a milled product.”
He also pointed to the same product making up the exterior of one of the buildings of Camosun College in Victoria.
“That’s been up successfully for more than 20 years and it makes no difference in terms of its look now as what it looked like when it first went up.”