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Surrey’s Brand Spanking New “Watts-Mahal” Now Pegged To Cost Near $150 Million

SURREY – While the originalcosts were bandied about atbeing around $97 million, aprincely sum by any standards,but it is now being pegged tocost taxpayers almost $150 millionby the time the city has finishedpaying for it for a buildingand special mayor’s digs, whichthe critics are calling Watts-Mahal, a sardonic tag on SurreyMayor Dianne Watts for thecostly building.Former Province journalist andnow facebook-blogger SalimJiwa was critical of Watts for notallowing the media to see herallegedly opulent office, whichhe dubbed Watts-Mahal.The new 180,000-sq-ft. buildingat 13450 104 Ave., completewith marble walls and stone-tilefloors, opened this week. Civicofficials have said the price tagfor the new space is $97 million,reported Surrey Leader.That figure also included a $10-million contingency fund, butThe Leader has learned thatmoney has been spent. In addition, Surrey paid an additional$2.5 million to turn council chambersinto a dual-purpose performing artsspace by adding catwalks.That brings the total construction cost to$99.5 million.However, Surrey borrowed$97 million from the MunicipalFinancing Authority, a lending agency forcities. Two mortgages were taken over25-year terms. The first $52 million isfinanced at 4.2 per cent, while theremaining $45 million is being financedat 2.9 per cent.That makes the annualinterest payments on those loans $1.936million. Over the 25-year term of themortgages, Surrey will have paid $48.4million in interest, bringing the total costof Surrey’s new city hall to $147.9 million.B.C. Director for the Canadian TaxpayersFederation Jordan Bateman said $150million is a lot of money to be spent ona civic building when Surrey has so manyneeds.Watts pointed out it is important for thecity to invest where it is asking others to.She also said the city has attracted $3 billionin private-sector investment sinceannouncing the new hall.Bateman said it’s impossible to say howmuch of that investment actually cameabout because of the new city hall. Henoted Surrey had already built a publiclibrary at the site, which could haveserved as the city’s commitment to thearea.New City Hall amenities for the communityinclude:•Improved service delivery, streamliningfour previously separate service areasinto one-stop counter services•City Hall Plaza as a gathering/celebrationvenue and urban park space•A theatre/performing arts venue programmedyear round with events•Meeting rooms•Public Daycare•Public ArtThe official City Hall Grand Opening forthe community will be held on SaturdayApril 26.

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