It shouldn't have been a surprise, but it was.
The very first update report to council for the recently approved plan to relocate Meaford's library to the former Foodland location at the corner of Sykes and Trowbridge Streets included a number that caused concern for some members of council - $5.5 million.
One of the recommendations included in the update report presented to council on October 30 was a direction to staff to include the project in the 2018 – 2019 capital budget, including land acquisition costs, construction costs consulting and engineering fees, furnishings, fixtures and equipment, exterior parkland costs, along with a few other items, for a total cost not to exceed $5.5 million.
It's true that just weeks prior council had approved the project at a cost of $4.4 million, which included the purchase of the property and the anticipated construction costs, but the treasurer made it clear in September when the plan was first put before council that there would be additional costs on top of the $4.4 million, and he had pledged to provide council with a full picture of the expected costs to build a new library at 11 Sykes Street. He did so this week.
Personally, when the $4.4 million was first announced, and knowing that there would be additional costs, particularly to pay some architects and engineers and to furnish the place, I had figured the total cost would easily reach $5 million, so with building in contingencies, and presenting a 'worst case scenario' to council, $5.5 million wasn't much of a surprise.
It's no secret that I'm not a full supporter of the plan to plunk the new library down where a grocery store used to be, but as I've written previously, the community supports the plan, and I've accepted it.
More concerning than the estimated $5.5 million price tag for the new library in my opinion is the plan to renovate the current library building in order for it to house our council chamber. No price tag has been attached to this proposal as of yet, but if I were a betting man, I would place a sizable bet on that project costing in the million dollar range, which would bring the estimated total cost for this proposal to the $6.5 million neighbourhood. And who knows at this point how much it will cost to convert the current council chamber building on the 7th Line into a space suitable for our OPP detachment. You can bet that project will be in the low hundreds of thousands of dollars. If done on the cheap, perhaps it would only cost in the tens of thousands of dollars to ready the building for the OPP, but in the spirit of presenting worst case scenarios, let's assume it'll be $100,000 or a little more.
Given that all of these items stem from the original project – to find a new home for our library – I think it's a pretty safe bet to assume that the full cost to purchase the Foodland property (which I would note has already been done, and the municipality will assume ownership as of January 2), the construction costs to turn the building into a library, plus the cost to renovate the current library building for use as a council chamber, plus any costs associated with making the 7th Line building ready for the OPP, will ultimately cost in the neighbourhood of $7 million. It could cost less, but we should be prepared for the worst as was noted by Meaford's treasurer, who told council that the $5.5 million figure presented on Monday was a 'worst case scenario'.
To be fair, not all of the cost will come directly from ratepayers' tax bills. A significant portion will be funded through development charges, and the municipality hopes to sell the 390 Sykes Street building for $700,000 to help fund the project. Also at the ready are the Friends of the Meaford Library who are gearing up to fundraise for the library project, but it is important that we consider the full cost no matter where the funding will be found.
The new library will most certainly be located at the former Foodland property – we've already bought the building, but the cost for this project doesn't end at the boundaries for that property, so when we're discussing the total anticipated cost for this library plan, we should be including the costs (once they're known) for renovating the current library building to house a new council chamber as well as the cost for making the 7th Line building ready for the relocation of the OPP detachment. It's all part of a single plan, and if it weren't for the need to find a new home for the library we wouldn't be considering spending money to renovate the current library building, and we wouldn't be moving our OPP detachment from 390 Sykes.
So forget $4.4 million, forget $5.5 million, the number we should be using as we discuss this (entire) plan should likely be closer to $7 million. And again I will say that if the community supports this plan in its entirety, then I support my community, but let's be real about what the total costs will be, and let's not kid ourselves into believing that the only costs will be the purchase of the building and the construction costs required to turn it into a library.