A staff update on the plans for a new library located at the former Foodland grocery store location was cause for some 'sticker shock' around the council table on October 30.
Earlier this month, Meaford's council gave unanimous final approval to proceed with a plan to purchase the former Foodland building at 11 Sykes Street in order to convert the property into a new public library. The cost would be $4.4 million, which would include the purchase price of the property at $1.525 million and renovation costs of $2.9 million.
The update provided to council on October 30 included a recommendation directing staff to include the project in the draft 2018-2019 capital budgets with a total cost not to exceed $5.5 million. While councillors had been told earlier this month that the exterior and parkland work included in the proposal and interior furnishings, fixtures, and equipment were not included in the costings previously provided to council, the new $5.5 million price tag was problematic for some members of council.
“I'm deeply concerned about $5.5 million,” Councillor Tony Bell told council. “When this council gave direction to our staff to engage 11 Sykes Street, $4.4 million was talked about. Applying about a million dollars from our DC (development charges) charges, and applying the potential sale of 390 Sykes Street, we probably could have been looking at a debt of maybe $2.2 or $2.4 million for that new location. I would like nothing better for our (library) folks to be in that footprint, in that location. It's got everything we need. It's the right size, it's the right place, but $5.5 million is out as far as I'm concerned.”
Councillor Steven Bartley agreed with Bell.
“Councillor Bell, I thought you were reading my script,” noted Bartley. “I have no doubt in my mind that there's going to be a library at 11 Sykes Street, I really have no doubt in my mind, and I'm for that. To the Treasurer, I'm going back to October 16, and as Councillor Bell said, the library would be $4.591 million, it ballooned a million dollars, where did that come from?”
Deputy Mayor Harley Greenfield, who originally proposed the former Foodland building as a potential library location also struggled with the new figure.
“I have to admit that when I saw the recommendation and I saw the $5.5 (million) number, it was a hit. I think I've been doing a pretty good job over the last two or three weeks selling four, four and a half million,” noted Greenfield.
Meaford Treasurer Darcy Chapman explained that the costing provided to council earlier this month did not include several items.
“First of all it didn't include any professional services fees, it also didn't include the parkland update either, which is being fully funded from parkland reserves,” Chapman noted. “In the previous reports we were trying to compare apples to apples. We were looking at core construction costs, demolition and construction costs, or in this case it was construction plus (property) acquisition costs. Ultimately it didn't make any difference which proposal we went with, consulting costs were going to be on top of that.”
Chapman also noted that no matter which library proposal council adopted consulting costs and interior furnishings, fixtures, and equipment would have been costs over and above the construction costs.
“I'm sorry that $5.5 million is a shock to council, but at the last meeting council clearly said 'we want to know what the total costs are, we don't want to be shocked by this', so we're giving you a worst case scenario here as far as the overall total project costs,” Chapman told council.
The treasurer also noted that much of the proposed cost will be funded through development charge funds, and the sale of the municipally owned property at 390 Sykes Street, which currently houses the OPP detachment and a private insurance company. Chapman also reminded council that the Friends of the Meaford Library are planning a fundraising campaign, and they've already received some significant donations.
“The fundraising could be $200,000, or it could be $2 million. We're trying to provide a clear, open, honest and accountable position of what this council would be looking at from the worst case perspective of total costs. I don't want to sugarcoat it, but I don't want to be coming back 18 months from now when the project is nearing completion and saying we're $2 million over what the budget was going to be,” Chapman told council.
Councillor Mike Poetker, who sits on the library board, told council that the FOML is gearing up to fundraise and he noted that they've already got more than $100,000 'tucked away' for the project.
Council ultimately voted in favour of the recommendation to include the project in the 2018-2019 capital budget with a total cost not to exceed $5.5 million.
A second recommendation included in the update report also resulted in some debate around the council table. The sale of the 390 Sykes Street property to help fund the library project will require the relocation of Meaford's OPP detachment, and the recommendation to council is for the council chamber to be relocated to the current library building, making space available at the location of the current council chamber on the 7th Line. Not all members of council supported moving the council chamber to the current library building, and after much debate council narrowly approved the recommendation to complete a costing for the renovation and rehabilitation of the 15 Trowbridge Street building for use as a council chamber with a 4-3 vote. Councillors Bell and Keaveney along with Deputy Mayor Harley Greenfield voted against the recommendation.
In his update Chapman also told council that the municipality has purchased the former Foodland property at a cost of $1.525 million and will officially take possession of the property on January 2, 2018.