The ship of Southgate will be steered from a new wheelhouse, as the township is getting a grant to renovate the former Egremont council chambers and office space.
Space for staff was a pressing issue before COVID-19 and with distancing requirements was even more so.
Right now, the council chambers in Hopeville is being used by staff while council meetings have been held online.
The township is receiving almost $100,000 to upgrade and relocate the council chambers, an announcement from MPP Bill Walker’s office said last Thursday.
That won’t pay for the whole renovation but will be a substantial percentage, the township CAO said in an interview.
The grant application went in last December. The tender has already been posted to the township website with the project to be substantially completed by year-end.
The work will see a hallway and several rooms turned into one large room, with accessible washrooms added.
In addition to the large room, a space will be included to be used for closed meetings or for councillors to leave the meeting during a discussion for which they had declared a conflict.
The successful bidder will be responsible for the engineering and the final design.
CAO David Milliner expects there would likely be room for at least twice as many members of the public as in Hopeville.
The part of the building that had been the Egremont office was used formerly by the credit union, after the former Egremont and Proton townships and the village of Dundalk amalgamated about 20 years ago. The works depot and an office are in use.
Other upgrades include new flooring, new lighting, improved insulation, drywall, new ceiling and a mechanical system for heating and air conditioning, as described on the tender.
Council had approved the application last December and on July 7, Coun. Michael Sherson expressed satisfaction with the township using existing space to solve its problems.
The staff report warned, however, that this might be a three to four year temporary solution. There are still a lot of moving parts in the situation with Southgate staff and buildings.
This move will see the building department return to the township office. The plans for the Glenelg Street property have been put on hold.
The County plan to re-locate its transport depot to property near Priceville did not go through, due to compatibility issues raised by the committee for the adjacent Old Durham Road Black Pioneer Cemetery.
CAO Dave Milliner said at last week’s council meeting that he anticipated that hybrid online and in-person meetings will continue into the future.
He noted that it’s an advantage that Eh-Tel has fibre and a “point-of-presence” allowing connection at the location already.
In earlier discussions, council members said any technical equipment should be able to be transported if meeting were held in other locations.
The space could be used on a temporary basis for elections, or perhaps as a space to drop off bill payments, Mr. Milliner said. He questioned whether the Hopeville office would be suitable for election use, but said that the Swinton Park hall is another option.
Southgate has already chosen to use electronic and telephone voting in the 2022 election, but help centres were offered in 2018 and are planned gain, where residents also can cast votes.
M.T. Fernandes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Dundalk Herald