After two years, the City of Surrey is still in talks with the province over the terms of a lease agreement that is supposed to help offset the construction costs of the new city hall.
In 2011, the B.C. government was arranging to lease part of Surrey's old city hall for $37 million. The lease - paired with a $10-million contingency fund - was originally going to drop the new hall's cost to taxpayers from $97 million to $50 million.
According to city solicitor Craig MacFarlane, nothing has been finalized, but he stressed that the provincial government is "definitely interested" in the facility.
"The negotiations with the province are ongoing on the lease," he said. "We've got an offer sitting here - I'm looking at it right now."
In September 2010, the city borrowed $97 million from the Municipal Finance Authority to cover the cost of the new city hall. The construction itself is estimated at $87 million, with the contingency fund to be used only if necessary for any unforeseen expenses, leaving a $50-million price tag for Surreyites if a $37-million deal is made.
MacFarlane would not confirm if the current offer is still at the $37-million mark as the discussions are confidential, but said the province is pursuing a lease of the single-storey portion of the city hall - which he estimated is about 44,000 square feet - for general office purposes.
Coun. Marvin Hunt said it's not necessarily unusual for negotiations of this type to take this long, especially when the new city hall isn't yet finished.
"It does take longer when you're dealing in that kind of relationship - it's basically, 'I can't give you a closing date yet,'" he said.
"It's not because we have somebody unwilling in the relationship. It's rather that we have the uncertainty of the actual time of the transfer, and so therefore, the negotiations take a little longer."
Colliers International currently also has a listing for another city hall building - with more than 21,000 square feet - for which the city is also looking for a lessee.
"The listing is for the newest building addition, the three-storey building," said MacFarlane. "We're negotiating a listing for the other building, the third part, the main tower."
With Surrey's new city hall still under construction, MacFarlane could not confirm if the 21,000-square-foot building would be ready for lease at its listed October availability date.
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