$27 million operations hub proposal gets mostly warm reception at Centre Wellington council

·4 min read

CENTRE WELLINGTON – A proposal for a new $28 million Centre Wellington operations centre was mostly well received by council on Wednesday.

A lengthy report recommends the township go with a new, more centralized build rather than renovations or retrofits at facilities spread throughout the township.

Adam Gilmore, manager of engineering, told council at a special committee of the whole meeting that current facilities are over capacity, not compliant with industry best practices or regulations, inadequate for staff needs and costly to operate and maintain.

For example, many facilities feature stairs and no elevator, some have no separate gender washrooms or change rooms and office areas often have to be in re-purposed spaces.

Project consultant James Makaruk explained the best option determined is a two phase new build that would bring together multiple departments such as: public works, engineering, water services, parks and recreation, source water protection, information technology as well as parking, vehicles, equipment, material and records storage.

The first phase would see a full office, multiple garage bays and one greenhouse with phase two adding another greenhouse, garage bays and a salt storage facility. After phase two, some of the existing facilities and land could be sold off but two satellite sites would remain in the east and west side of the township.

Colin Baker, managing director of infrastructure, said a shovel-ready timeframe of the end of 2022 would be a reasonable estimate.

A cost of just under $28 million was given as a high-level estimate which would be funded mainly through development charges and selling the existing sites.

This new facility would need at least 20 acres, which went against an original assumption that a new facility could be accommodated at the Fergus works garage.

CAO Andy Goldie stated there are some properties staff are looking at but there will be a more detailed discussion in a future closed session.

Coun. Steven VanLeeuwen said they’ve been speaking of this project for a long time and the costs are not going to get any lower.

“We know the cost of building supplies and land is growing astronomically...we do need to take a serious look at this,” VanLeeuwen said.

Coun. Kirk McElwain said he was disappointed to see environmental considerations as having a low impact on the option rating considering this facility is meant to serve the community for at least 60 years.

Baker assured him there is an opportunity to incorporate things like solar or rain water harvesting in the future design.

“The fact that it had low influence in criteria to begin with worries me that it’s not going to have a high importance in the design,” McElwain said. “I would like to emphasize how important it is to do the design with the environment in mind.”

Coun. Stephen Kitras was not convinced this was the best option and questioned why there wasn’t more information on a collaboration with the County of Wellington which Mapleton had successfully done recently.

He likened this proposal to a “$27 million Taj Mahal” and said he believed they should investigate a strategic relationship with the county to examine cost savings.

Coun. Bob Foster was similarly not convinced there would be significant cost savings by switching to this model beyond some energy costs.

Coun. Neil Dunsmore said he was very impressed with this report and noted this could be an opportunity to encourage more women to apply for jobs in the public works department because they will be able to provide basic facilities.

“We probably don’t have a lot of women in there, we can’t even provide them with a change room and bathroom,” Dunsmore said.

Mayor Kelly Linton said things aren’t always about cost savings when it comes to matters like this and was disappointed some councillors didn’t see it this way.

“We have to make an investment to this community, especially when it comes to the delivery of our core services,” Linton said. “There comes a time where councils have to make big decisions on the things that will impact the delivery of those core services.”

Council received the report for information and is expected to make a decision in June.

Keegan Kozolanka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com