By Karen Wolfe

Plans for a new $50 million Civic Centre were unveiled at the 2023 town budget meeting on January 24 when council and the public got their first glimpse of the 44,000 sq. ft. design.

The last time plans for a new civic centre were discussed was in June 2022 when the plans called for a new 21,300 sq. ft. building at a cost of $25.7 million.

The details of the new building were attached to a recommendation to approve the funding and Mayor Quirk did her best to convince the rest of council to spend the money and pass the recommendation.

“This is a good plan and it is a plan I can support. I can support moving forward with this and I can defend the position,” she said. “I am 100 per cent supportive of moving forward with this.”

Ward 4 councillor Dale Genge was the first one out of the gate to oppose the idea of spending $50 million for a new building without first considering the option to renovate the existing building.

She credited her background in professional engineering with her skills to assess the required updates such as an HVAC system, a new elevator and OADA upgrades.

“I will never buy the argument that this building is past its life expectancy,” she said. “That just isn’t true.”

She said one of the main drivers for a new building back in 2016 was the issue of overcrowding.

“That has been relieved due to the flex work policy,” she said.

The flex work policy means more than half of the staff complement will work from home or in remote service desk locations as the town moves toward decentralizing services. As a result, 100 employees or less will require space at the civic centre.

Councillor Genge went on to say that based on her assessment of the situation, it would cost approximately $24 million to renovate the existing building.

“Unless we do an updated look at that and get a Class D estimate for doing the renovations at the civic centre it is impossible for me to say that the best option is a new building,” she said.

Even though Mayor Quirk admitted the Town did not do an in-depth analysis of the renovation option, she was not supportive of going back and looking at it now.

“To step back now would cost us in terms of time and money,” she said adding, “I don’t believe that revisiting and going back to the issue of renovating this current building will be the route that we should take. No matter what we do it will cost money and I think the better use of resources and our dollars is to build new.”

Regional Councillor Davison supported the recommendation to build a new civic centre, but she questioned the more expensive horseshoe-shaped design versus a smaller footprint that eliminated the courtyard but included extra stories above.

She recommended that the vote to approve the $50 million expenditure and the design be delayed four to six weeks until further analysis of a smaller footprint be examined and to give the public an opportunity to comment on the project.

But Mayor Quirk again, was not in favour of delaying the vote. She said she didn’t feel it would be prudent to revisit the design at this point and said the extra time involved would be subject to additional escalation costs.

“I don’t know what delaying this a month will do,” she said. “It won’t change my decision at this point.”

Councillor Neeson and Councillor Fellini were in favour of moving forward with the recommendation to approve the project.

However, Ward 1 Councillor Charlene Biggerstaff and Ward 5 Councillor Lee Dale both felt Davison’s motion to take a pause until March 1 was the best way forward and Councillor Genge felt the delay would also provide her some time to get more answers.

The motion to delay was passed unanimously with both Mayor Quirk and Councillor Neeson eager to get on with the project come March 1.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here