COUNTY OF WELLINGTON - Several county councillors are hesitant on spending big when it came to the expansion project of the county administration centre.
The $27-million project was a hot topic when council met Monday to review the county’s 10-year forecast and 2022 budget.
Council saw an estimated operating budget of $247.3 million and a capital budget of $56.5 million, as well as a proposed tax hike of 2 per cent.
Ken DeHart, county treasurer, stated that $511.2 million is budgeted for capital projects for the 10-year forecast plan, of which $27 million is set aside for the expansion of the county administration centre.
County CAO Scott Wilson explained that the idea of the project came about several years ago when staff was looking at making a property acquisition in the area in Downtown Guelph.
“For a variety of reasons, the property acquisition opportunity evaporated but we’re still exploring other areas. However, should that opportunity we’re discussing doesn’t develop then we have the opportunity to make it on our property: we’re going to be tearing down the IT building and constructing an office building with an underground parking lot,” explained Wilson.
“Something has to be done to accommodate staff growth and our facility requirements. Councillor Cork suggested we have a meeting about the location of our offices, and I think that discussion should come up alongside the talks about the budgeted $27 million.”
At its last meeting on Nov. 25, county councillor Campbell Cork gave a notice of motion indicating his request for a special meeting on the possibility of moving the county’s administration centre out of Guelph and into a central location within the county.
Several councillors were hesitant about the $27 million budget for the expansion project. Coun. Diane Ballantyne explained that she wants council to have a significant debate and discussion on the matter, seeing that the expansion project given its cost.
“We have a $27 million investment for the near future, when we’re only looking at $4 million for rural broadband and $2 million for climate change. I have some concerns about this and we haven’t had any real discussions about this, yet it comes year after year,” she said.
Councillor Gregg Davidson echoed Ballantyne’s sentiments, noting that $27 million is a lot, however, he understands that as the communities within the county grows, council has to deliberate regarding the future of its administration centre.
“As the community grows, we need to have a discussion with our admin centre. We need to ask ourselves questions such as: Where do we have the admin centre? Do we keep it? $27 million is a lot of money,” said Davidson.
“We also have to consider how many of our staff can work from home. Do we need to increase or decrease our office and work stations as staff people work from home? These are the things we need to discuss.”
Warden Kelly Linton noted that council needed to have a further discussion regarding the administration centre as a separate item, and as such, moved it to a future date alongside Coun. Cork’s notice of motion for further consideration.
Angelica Babiera, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com