Whitestone ratepayers not happy with proposed municipal office expansion plans

·2 min read

In early March, the proposed municipal office expansion was mentioned in Whitestone’s draft budget.

The expansion cost is an estimated $700,000.

That number has left some Whitestone ratepayers with concerns.

Muriel Stiles, a longtime Whitestone resident, wrote a letter to council on April 21.

“I am horrified looking at the continued federal and provincial debt and if our municipal government is the only place where a taxpayer has any input — other than on voting day — then I ask you to rethink the needs of municipal staff and look at alternatives,” wrote Stiles.

“The community centre is only a few healthy steps away and should be utilized for conferences and staff meetings.”

With the way COVID-19 has changed the way people live life and use technology, Stiles said that she hopes council looks into her suggestions.

“Our library and technology centre was built with an eye to the future,” she said. “Perhaps there is extra space there not being utilized at present.”

For Barb Boulter, who also wrote to mayor and council, she said that she is concerned about the facts not being presented to the ratepayers of Whitestone.

“I believe that staff has increased by one employee as a result of splitting the position of deputy clerk and treasurer, which would require one more workstation,” wrote Boulter to council.

“As well, the current office space does not provide a meeting room.”

According to Boulter’s email, the current building was completed 10 years ago and cost the municipality approximately $1,000,000.

“Was there not a forecast when the building was originally built to not accommodate growth?” she asked.

Like Stiles, Boulter expressed her concerns that the proposed expansion would be jumping Whitestone into further debt, but also offered some solutions for council to consider.

Among the suggestions from Boulter were: reorganizing the current office space to accommodate current staff; include a reception window as opposed to having public access to the office; utilize the community centre, the three meeting rooms at the library or renovating the mobile trailer in order to have private and confidential meetings.

“In my opinion, spending $700,000 on a building which is only 10 years old is frivolous spending,” she said.

In response to Boulter's email, Whitestone Mayor George Comrie replied that he understood that no one wanted to spend $700,000 on an office expansion right now.

“We have tasked the architect to investigate reconfiguration of the existing office space to accommodate the most urgent requirements,” wrote Comrie. “Our hope is that they can be met at substantially lower cost.”

However, on April 21, Whitestone Coun. Joe Lamb commented on a Whitestone Community Chat Facebook post that he did not support the municipal office expansion.

Whitestone is set to finalize its budget at its May 3 meeting.

Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.

Sarah Cooke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Parry Sound North Star