By Mike Anderson

On May 8, council voted 5-2 to approve a revised budget for the new 44,600-square-foot Civic Centre.

The project budget, which includes the cost of demolishing the existing building, was increased by more than $4 million to $54,106,000, as the lowest bid received during the Town’s tendering process, plus contingency, interest, and other costs, exceeded the $50 million approved by council on March 1, 2023.

The new budget represents a 100 per cent increase over the original $27 million project budget approved by council in 2019.

It also represents a 116 percent increase over the $25 million project budget proposed for a smaller 21,200-square-foot building considered in 2022. However, the design was later rejected as being “far too small to meet current or future needs.”

The Town received three bids during the tendering process.

The lowest bid was submitted by Vaughan-based Maystar General Contractors Inc., who will build the new Civic Centre for $41,850,000. The two higher bids were submitted by Percon Construction Inc. ($44,159,400) and Aquicon Construction Co. Ltd ($45,546,000).

According to Rob Wheater, Deputy CAO and Treasurer, the Town has set aside $3,473,000 from the 2023 & 2024 2 per cent infrastructure tax levies and other internal borrowings, primarily from reserve funds, in a dedicated reserve fund for the Civic Centre build.

He said by the time the project is completed, there will be $13 million in that fund. The remaining $41 million would be raised through a $20 million 10 year debenture, and $21 million in internal borrowings.

Wheater expects the internal borrowing and debenture, plus interest charges, will be repaid 13.5 years after the Civic Centre is completed.

Before the vote, Pefferlaw resident Karen Wolfe made a deputation to council, expressing her concerns about the project.

Wolfe argued that a larger Civic Centre is unnecessary, as many Town employees now work from home.

She also said other options, like leasing local office space or decentralizing Town services, must be fully considered.

“The $50 million civic centre design approved last year was never put before the public, and we were never allowed to formally provide feedback,” she said.

Wolfe also criticized the Town’s plan to finance the project by borrowing from reserve funds, which she says will lead to higher taxes and possible surcharges to address the Town’s current infrastructure funding gap.

“We were told that the extra 1% and 2% in infrastructure tax that we have been paying was to address the huge infrastructure funding gap that is already at a critical level, but it was actually being tucked away for the new Civic Centre,” she said.

“So when all of our infrastructure and reserve money is spent on the new Civic Center, will we be hit with a bevy of new taxes wrapped up and sold as surcharges? Certainly, if this tax money, which was intended to address maintenance and infrastructure costs, is used for the new Civic Centre, it stands to reason that an increase in taxes will be levied to pay for those other expenses.”

Ward 4 Councillor Dale Genge and Ward 5 Councillor Lee Dale cast the two opposing council votes. Dale, who had originally voted to approve the new Civic Centre’s $50 million budget on March 1, 2023, did not comment.

On the other hand, Genge spoke for nearly ten minutes, outlining her reasons for voting no.

Genge called the new Civic Centre a “vanity project”, which she couldn’t support when many residents were experiencing financial hardship.

She argued that the existing building could be renovated for $18 million less than the cost of a new building.

“I’m a firm believer that if buildings are properly maintained, they can be repurposed, renovated, and renewed several times over,” she said.

“The question council has to answer and to all the residents is, should we ask our taxpayers to pay an extra $18 million for a new modern building? Or can council modify this building to meet modern functional needs?”

“It has been suggested that a renovation throws good money after bad. A building is not gambling; we will be taking good money and making the building good.”

Genge also argued that the Town could lease available office space at a fraction of the cost of building a new Civic Centre.

“Suitable empty property is available all around Town. Based on my quick analysis, the Town can acquire almost half of the proposed new building space for about one-fifth of the proposed budget for a new building. That option deserves a fulsome exploration and discussion before we decide today to increase the budget for a replacement building,” she said.

Mayor Quirk defended council’s decision to replace the Civic Centre and said the financial plan behind it was sound.

“We have studied many different options. We’ve looked at repairing and renovating this building. We’ve looked at decentralizing. It was deemed this would be the best option from a financial point of view,” Mayor Quirk said.

“The longer we delay, the more this is going to cost us in the end. That’s a reality. So, I want people to know we looked at other options. This has been a very transparent process.”



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