Faced with a set of options from staff to renovate Chatham-Kent’s Civic Centre, council has decided not to go ahead on a staff recommendation to spend $18.1 million from life-cycle reserves to make necessary repairs to city hall.
The recommendation fell by a 7-11 vote.
Chatham councillor Brock McGregor, who voted in favour of the renovations, said council is just moving the problem down the road, and it will cost more in the long run dealing with the problem than fixing it now.
McGregor said it’s an issue where council put political popularity over fiscal responsibility.
“During the election residents were crystal-clear that they wanted us to be acting pro-actively to be protecting their tax dollars,” McGregor says. “Part of that sometimes is making decisions that may sometimes seem to be unpopular but are the best interests of the taxpayer in the future.”
Councillor Michael Bondy was among those who wasn’t in favour of spending money on the renovations, instead saying Chatham-Kent has other priorities and money should be spent on the Civic Centre on an as-needed basis.
“I just don’t feel that it was necessary to completely gut and redo the Civic Centre because there is a slight heating and cooling problem,” Bondy says. “To me it was a big project (that is) completely unnecessary. It would be nice but it is completely unnecessary.”
Originally built in 1977, issues with the deterioration of the Civic Centre was first brought to council in 2017.
Last year, administration presented a second report to council that recommended the relocation of council chambers from the second floor to the first floor as well as a plan to address the deficiencies of the Civic Centre.
Along with accessibility concerns, the staff report said the building has security concerns, poor energy efficiency, poor floor space utilization and a number of repairs needed. The report says the building needs major structural, electrical, lighting, window, flooring and plumbing repairs.
Council later approved a motion to get a report on costs to repair just the HVAC system at the Civic Centre. It’s expected to come back to council in a couple of months.