The council’s new £7 million office complex at the North Ness may house other departments along with the social care staff it was intended for. But rumours that the imposing three-storey building might be commandeered for use as corporate headquarters and a new council meeting chamber were scotched yesterday by the political leader Josie Simpson.
The vice-convener admitted that with council departments in the process of being restructured a number of options are on the table to tidy up the large estate of properties the local authority has around Lerwick. But discussions are at an early stage.
He said: “I think that with all the re-organisation going on just now we have to look at the best way to use our properties. But there’s not been a decision or anything taken on that at all at this stage.”
He still thought it was “a certainty” that social care staff would still be going into the new building but there could be other departments along with them.
As for the idea of councillors holding their meetings there instead of the chamber in the Town Hall, he said: “I’ll be very, very surprised if it will move from where it is just now. There are no plans for that.”
There is talk among council staff that if it was to be taken for use as a corporate HQ it would mean not just councillors taking up residence but also staff being brought in from finance, legal and administration and personnel instead of giving the run of the building to social care staff.
Chief executive Alistair Buchan was unavailable for comment yesterday.
Work on the 3,000 square metre office block is already well advanced under local contractor Hunter and Morrison. It is being built for the Shetland Charitable Trust property company Slap which will rent it out to the council on a 20-year lease.
Trust financial controller Jeff Goddard said this week it was on schedule to be handed over by the builder at the end of March and it is still being constructed to the original design requirements.
The building itself is costing around £6 million while the purchase of land from WAG Construction and the demolishing of buildings and the site preparation added another £1 million.
The internal layout is designed to be flexible with movable partitions but it is being laid out to the specific requirements of up to 140 social care employees and includes classrooms for adult learning and interview rooms with panic buttons in case of attack or medical emergency.
The twin wings of the building are joined by a glass-fronted social area where staff members can mingle and relax on comfy chairs and use vending machines during breaks. The building contains changing rooms and lockers, a bike shelter and there are 144 car parking places outside, some of which already existed.
The site was once seen by some as the ideal campus for Shetland College, near the bus station, the museum and archives, Mareel, and close to town centre shops and cafes.