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Sault Ste. Marie’s vision in white

Cladding replacement project underway on city’s Civic Centre

Sault Ste. Marie’s centre of municipal government will have a vastly different look at this time next year, following a $6.9-million recladding project currently underway.

Last February, city council approved the replacement of the exterior aluminum panels on its Civic Centre, which was a recommendation in a 2014 report presented by Morrison Hershfield engineering firm. The project consultants proposed the work be completed by 2018 at the latest.

“Essentially, we’re following the recommendation of the engineering consultant that reviewed it back in 2014,” said Don Elliott, Sault Ste. Marie’s director of engineering services.

“They said it needs to be replaced, and when they said no later than 2018, we thought it was prudent to ensure we get it done by that time.”

Timmins-based Cy Rheault Construction was approved as the winning contractor. At a quote of $6,895,000, the company’s bid was the lowest in response to the tender.

The city said it would use long-term debt financing to fund the project, which would not incrementally increase the city’s tax levy. Work on the Civic Centre is part of the Sault’s 2015 Asset Management Plan, which is a provincial requirement.

“As required by the province, the city must have an asset management plan that guides the municipality on how needed repairs and upgrades are prioritized for its buildings and facilities over a 25-year horizon,” the city said in a June 8 news release.

“Annually, an allocation within the budget funds the asset management plan that is used to make repairs, improvement and replace equipment. A portion of this annual amount will be used to finance the loan."

Though the project will dramatically change the outer appearance of the building, which sits along the Sault’s waterfront, it has little to do with aesthetics and everything to do with longevity.

At 43 years old, the Civic Centre’s age is catching up with it, and a number of issues have cropped up that require attention, Elliott said.

“The structure was built in 1975, and there are water penetration issues,” he said. “We have considerable locations where water can get inside the building, especially with sideways rain.”

The current cladding will be replaced with panels comprised of an aluminum-plastic composite, he noted.

In addition to that, clips that secure the metal cladding to the structure have rusted “considerably,” Elliott said. There’s a danger they could fall off the building, presenting a health and safety issue, although the city has been monitoring the situation closely and no clips have fallen yet.

Finally, the seals on the windows are broken, and so the windows – all in custom sizing – have to be replaced as well.

In the four-plus decades since the building was constructed, cladding and windows in hues that would match the current colour scheme of the building have become obsolete. So the brown cladding will be replaced with white panels, while grey-tinted windows will replace the current gold-tinged versions.

“So it’ll be a grey-windowed building with, let’s say, white banding,” Elliott explained. “That’s really what it’s going to look like.”

Elliott said the colours, which were recommended by the consultants and approved by council, should offer some efficiencies to the building’s envelope.

By early August, the contractor had begun removing the old panels from the building and was still finalizing its methods and the delivery dates for materials. Elliott said the project would use mostly local workers to complete construction.

When complete, the building’s new exterior will have an estimated lifespan of 40 to 50 years. 

All work is expected to wrapped up by the end of the summer of 2019, and Elliott said the city is grateful to its citizens for their understanding through that time.

“We always appreciate the patience of the taxpayers that come into the building, because it will be a bit inconvenient with access and maybe restricted parking for a while,” he said. “So we appreciate their co-operation.”