Big money, big opportunity

When it comes to public buildings doing it right is imperative. It would appear the Fergus Library is on track to becoming another spectacular project.

Price of course has to enter into the discussion, yet apart from some vocal critics in town there has been no great outcry against spending such a large sum. The proposal has been floated long enough that one would have to conclude people see value in public buildings of consequence.

Over the years we have been witness to the damage done when governments cheap out. Sure, coming under budget or setting the bar low wins praise in some corners.

But very often, those same boxes for buildings became maintenance problems down the road, not to mention, the poor image resulting from being cheap in the first place.

For Fergus, the incorporation of this project within the larger concept of downtown rejuvenation speaks to another element of economic development government often misses. What we do today has an impact on tomorrow. There is little doubt that this plan will create more people traffic and more reasons to meander downtown.

The expansion of this facility will mean a small reduction in parking. This fact points to the larger issue of towns and townships actually purchasing strategic property. We have watched over the years as big opportunities were squandered for the sake of potential taxpayer discontent. This thinking is flawed.

Since the topic of the editorial this week is Fergus-based, consider what would have happened if the old Reliable Motors site had been purchased for downtown parking. There are great tenants there today, but this could have been part of a larger rejuvenation plan at that time. Again in Fergus, the lands to the south and west of the arena were perfect opportunities to enhance the venue for things like the Highland Games or Truck Show. These ideas of course are never now to be, but that would have been great forward thinking.

All we are suggesting is big opportunities often cost big money. Councils should not be afraid to take a longer term view of their community and, if it requires picking up strategic parcels of land, it is well worth having options for development in the long run.