CBRM council pressed to decide on new Sydney library

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CBRM council has to move quickly on the library development proposal, says Mayor Amanda McDougall. There are concerns that rising costs will make the construction of a new library unaffordable for the municipality. (Tom Ayers/CBC - image credit)
CBRM council has to move quickly on the library development proposal, says Mayor Amanda McDougall. There are concerns that rising costs will make the construction of a new library unaffordable for the municipality. (Tom Ayers/CBC - image credit)

Mayor Amanda McDougall says Cape Breton regional council is going to have to make some decisions soon on a proposed new library for downtown Sydney.

The project has been kicked around for years and the estimated cost has climbed to $32 million from $18 million.

A recent study also found CBRM could be hit with an additional $300,000 in annual operating costs for the new building.

McDougall said in order to get funding from governments and other sources, council has to move quickly.

"We have to figure out what funding is out there, how this project moves forward, what that project looks like, and really, what does council want," she said.

At a council meeting in the Centre 200 arena Tuesday, several councillors objected to a request to add the library to the agenda, saying they needed more time to understand the proposed development.

CBRM Coun. Lorne Green says he needs more time to review the details of the proposed development before he can vote on it.
CBRM Coun. Lorne Green says he needs more time to review the details of the proposed development before he can vote on it.(Cape Breton Regional Municipality/Zoom)

"I just received this information today on the 11th hour," said newly elected Coun. Lorne Green. "I'm not prepared to ... vote on a motion on that particular item."

He suggested council defer the item to another meeting to give members an opportunity to review it more carefully.

Others agreed, saying it would be better if the proponent, officials from the regional library and others were brought in to answer questions.

Council voted to defer the item and McDougall said she plans to call a special meeting within the next two weeks to bring the new council up to speed.

Building a new library in Sydney is challenging, she said, because it is getting more expensive, yet the municipality still has to support other satellite libraries throughout the region.

"Making sure that we are prepared to go forward and are financially viable as partners in this — that has to be discussed, and we really haven't had that discussion yet," she said.

"If we have an increase in operational costs that are up to $300,000, how do we afford that and ensure that the rest of the network is still intact?"

Deadline looming

In 2018, council handed an exclusive deal to Harbour Royale Development to build the new library on the waterfront along with the company's own plans for a commercial and residential building nearby.

That deal was extended in 2019 and expires in June.

McDougall said that's another reason council needs to move quickly, before having to decide whether to extend that deal further.

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