Rideau Lakes council recently gave the green light for a new municipal hub to be built in the village of Portland.
"I am very pleased that council has decided to advance this project," said Mayor Arie Hoogenboom in a prepared statement.
Through a recorded vote, the motion was carried earlier this month with seven in favour and two against.
The Portland Hub will include the replacement of the community hall, a relocated library branch and relocated township administrative offices, as well as new council chambers.
According to Hoogenboom, co-locating the uses on the Portland site provides cost savings rather than building separate facilities. It's achieved by sharing common elements like meeting rooms, kitchen, parking, washrooms and other spaces.
It had been a long road to the decision to green-light the municipal hub project, and many factors contributed to the decision to move forward with the $5.8 million investment.
The need to develop a municipal hub was previously identified in the 2015 strategic plan for the 2025 vision, along with village renewal, economic development and financial sustainability,
The final decision to approve the hub in Portland came after two years of work and consultation with the community and detailed financial modelling to ensure the project wouldn’t have an impact on tax rates, said township officials.
Previously, council had decided to reuse the current Portland Community Hall site on Water Street for the new hub development, along with the Shire property, which was purchased in 2005, for future needs. The decisions followed engineering assessments of the current community hall in 2016 and 2017.
The results of the two assessments illustrated that the building had reached the end of its useful life and would need to be completely overhauled or replaced. A subsequent costing revealed that rehabilitating the inaccessible and old two-storey building would be comparable to building new, officials added.
According to a report presented to council, the Portland hall required approximately $1 million to rehabilitate.
The local library branch is using a leased space that costs $21,000 annually, while the administrative functions of the municipality have been done out of the converted public works garage in Chantry since amalgamation in 1998.
From a facility and space needs assessment it was identified that the Chantry facility requires major investments and expansion to continue to be useful for administrative functions. The building is undersized, stated the report presented to council, adding that the Chantry facility requires an estimated minimum of $1 million for rehabilitation and expansion.
The architectural firm +VG has been working with the community and the township over the past year to refine the concept plans and ensure the hub project is compatible with the village setting and will function on the selected site.
"We have done our homework and financial modelling. While a significant investment, it provides considerable savings over building individual facilities, and is comparable to investments we would need to make to maintain the status quo," said Hoogenboom, adding the township has decided to invest in Portland's future.
Now that the decision has been made the next steps include developing designs for the new municipal hub in consultation with stakeholders and issuing a tender for construction in the new year.
The current community hall in Portland will also be demolished in 2022 and the new facility is anticipated to be developed in 2023. A transition plan will be developed to ensure all users of the current community hall continue to have access to community spaces while the new facility is being built.
(Jessica Munro is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Brockville Recorder and Times. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.)
Jessica Munro, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times