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Alternate staffing options explored in ongoing Admin Centre debate

September 6, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Kira Wronska Dorward

The final issue of August 26th’s Town Council and Meeting of the Whole Committee was the embattled subject of the Town Administration Centre, which went well into the night, with Council adjourning on the subject at 11 pm.

Debate went back and forth between using or demolishing the Town’s property at 25 Albert Street, or using the New Tecumseth Recreation Centre (NTRC) site as multi-purpose facility, among other options.

Before the break, Council had been left with a report from staff about maintaining utilities during the winter at 25 Albert Street, one of the proposed sites for the new Administration Building.

Councillor Beattie opened discussion by stating, “after reading the report…rather than electrifying and getting water running in a building we are not using. Why don’t we just demolish it and add

[the cost of demolition]

to the sale price?”

To this suggestion, the CAO added that the Town “could recuperate slightly more than the cost of the demolition”, and potentially turn a profit on the property.

He also noted that the temporary fencing that remains around the site costs $380/month to maintain, without the extra utilities in the winter months.

Deputy Mayor Norcross expressed his opinion on the matter: “My feelings on this are quite simple. That we don’t put any more money into this, and demolish it…and get a report back in two weeks with other options. The CAO has given light to more than breaking even with demolition. Put it out on the market and see what happens. We have a piece of prime real estate.”

Councillor Beattie agreed, and that they should leverage the value of the property to their best advantage.

Discussion then turned to the NTRC site as a potential option for housing the Town Administration Centre.

“I think we’ve got a huge opportunity to leverage our rec centre, and that’s the direction I would like to see it go in,” concluded Beattie.

Councillor Foster then brought up concerns about doing anything before the outcome of the Regional review is known.

Councillor Noye argued against the NTRC site, saying that, “we have a piece of property completely paid for at 25 Albert Street.”

Councillor Jebb entered the debate to support Noye, pointing out “how solid the building is, it’s a great building. It’s close to the business district, and the downtown…keep the NTRC recreational.”

Councillor Lacey suggested consolidating the services offered by the NTRC with a new Town Administrative Centre on the same site, with staff being multi-disciplinary trained.

Beattie agreed, adding that the land 25 Albert Street is on “was a steal. We turned a profit on prime real estate that we can use for something good…affordable medium-density housing. I think that site has more potential not being an administration centre.”

Councillor Harrison-McIntyre boiled this debate down to the essential question, “What’s the long-term plan here?”

According to the CAO, there are “a couple of schools of thought when it comes to administrative space…to use prime real estate for admin space is something the community may want to consider, keeping people in your downtown core. Historically, administrative buildings were in the centre of town, but the recent trend has been to build on the outskirts because real estate is cheaper.”

A blocking diagram was then presented of possibilities of what could be put on the NTRC site. “the site,” said the CAO, “is fairly large and can accommodate a lot, and then those hubs become your transit hubs as well.”

Councillor Sainsbury then added her opinion.

“I don’t know any municipalities who shares its admin centre with its recreational facilities. I’m concerned our population is going to grow and we’re going to need that recreational land.”

Foster then restated his suggestion of demolishing 25 Albert Street, adding that they could then wait until the regional review process was over to make any further decisions. “Where we go from there,” he concluded, “will be decided in November.”

Councillor MacLellan also pointed out that the NTRC site would be easier access to people coming from the Town’s south end.

Harrison-McIntyre, again boiling things down to essentials, asked, “What’s the real motivation? Save money and get the thing done…what I see happening is costs are just adding up because of all this delay.”

Councillor Jebb also expressed concerns that having administrative buildings attached to a recreational centre might not have the professional look the Town is going for if it wants to attract new businesses to the area.

Sainsbury again expressed her reservations about demolishing 25 Albert Street. “We worked hard for three years, and in six months we’ve completely changed the whole plan,” she admonished.

A motion was then passed for staff to report back with the cost of demolition, and that no more money be invested in 25 Albert Street.

For the interim administrative staff accommodation, the CAO stated, “We are trying to maximize all our current facilities right now, which will come at some cost. We will be moving some people around and will keep Council apprised. We don’t have two years-worth of accommodations within our current facilities, so we do have to look elsewhere.”

One proposed solution was to install temporary trailers at the Albert Street site for up to five years. Councillor Foster pointed out that such trailers come fraught with problems, “and frankly look like a bit of a joke. The image that it projects is certainly worth something.”

In the end, a motion was carried that staff be directed to look at other options and alternatives for interim staffing accommodation and report back to Council.


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