County council approves updated design for new Hillsburgh library

Wellington County council approved an updated design plan for the Hillsburgh library, despite objections from several councillors over an $800,000 hike in the estimated cost of the project.

At a Sept. 22 meeting held at the International Plowing Match and Rural Expo, council approved a revised 9,920-square-foot design at a budget estimate of $4.8 million.

Paul Sapounzi of VG Architects presented the design, which incorporates a 5,330-square-foot main floor addition and a 3,150-square-foot lower level addition to the existing 1892 farmhouse on Station Street.

During discussion on a recommendation from the library committee to approve the updated design, councillor Gregg Davidson asked for an explanation of why the cost increased from the original projections.

“How did we get to $4.8 million?” Davidson asked.

Councillor Rob Black, chair of the Information, Heritage and Senior’s committee that includes the library board, said the design of an elevator and other accessibility features were part of the increased cost.

“It’s a great site, but it has its challenges topographically,” agreed Paul Sapounzi, of VG Architects, noting there is a one-storey difference in elevations on the property around the building.

Sapounzi also said the 6,000 square feet of area required for programming in the building needs to be supported by a further 2,000 to 2,500 square feet for mechanical systems such as air conditioning equipment and other features needed to make the building functional.

Councillor Neil Driscoll noted the building design features a full kitchen in the basement area.

“This building is a library. Is there any way this kitchen can be held off?” he wondered.

Sapounzi explained it’s difficult to determine how much would be saved by scaling down the kitchen, as an area for staff meals will be required regardless of the design. He also explained some of the extra costs are the result of the need to service the site, which requires a new septic system and storm water management features.

Black pointed out the project was over budget by $800,000, not $1.8 million as Davidson was suggesting. The 2016 budget passed by council in January contained a $1-million provision for the library project this year and a forecast of $3 million in 2017.

However Davidson was undeterred.

“We were told back in January it would be about $3 million,” said Davidson. “I could understand three-point-five, but four-point-eight is quite extensive.”

Sapounzi said despite the challenges of the location, the design projects costs of about $300 per square foot, which is in line with previous county library projects.

Councillor Lynda White said she believes the facility is ideally suited as a location for community events.

“I’m sure we could see all kinds of events happening there,” said White.

“It’s going to need a kitchen, even if it’s a small kitchen. I think the money will be well spent … It’s going to be one of the showplaces in Wellington County.”

Councillor Allan Alls, Mayor of Erin, pointed out the facility will enhance the local community and make it more attractive.

“The reason we believe this is a well-thought out plan is because the building fits in well with the area and because of our assessment,” said Alls.

“If Erin does well, then the county does well.”

Councillor Doug Breen said, “It doesn’t bother me to pay $5 million for a building if it really is a $5-million building.”

He noted if that’s what it costs to build a 6,000-square-foot library, council’s only real question is whether they need 6,000 square feet.

Breen said he feels the building will be worth the money and said he views it as a $3.5 million library and a $1.5 million community centre.

“I don’t mind spending $5 million on a building that is going to be the centerpiece of a community. What bothers me is spending $100,000 on a culvert,” said Breen.

Councillor Kelly Linton disagreed with arguments that location challenges justify additional building costs.

“The location of the building doesn’t fly for me as an argument. We knew what we were buying,” said Linton.

“There’s a big spread between putting up four walls and a roof and building something that’s been over-designed.”

However, councillor Shawn Watters said he knew the decision to build outside the urban area would add to the cost. “I knew as soon as we moved the building to a rural area that the price was going to go up,” said Watters.

He also pointed out the Hillsburgh library is the final project in the long-term renewal of the county library system that included the restoration of the five Carnegie libraries in Wellington and construction of several new facilities.

“We’re at the end of this process and we need to be respectful to our communities in the county,” said Watters. “We are community builders.”

Councillor Gary Williamson said, “The thought that we’re overbuilding this library, that’s not the case.”

Since the square-foot costs are comparable to previous libraries, “the only way you’re going to change the cost is to say we don’t need 6,000 square feet,” he added. “As long as I’ve been around the county it’s been the very same. The county does not build anything that’s second rate.”

Davidson then asked, “What size do we need? Do we need 6,000 square feet?”

Chief librarian Murray McCabe said while Hillsburgh’s current library, located in a rented facility is only 3,500 square feet, “6,000 feet is the norm for a stand-alone building.”

“I consider this an investment in the future,” said Warden George Bridge. “This is going to be a great development.”

A resolution to approve the recommended design as the basis for the development of a site plan, detailed construction drawings and tender documents was approved in a 12–4 vote that was recorded at Davidson’s request.

Councillors Davidson, Driscoll, Linton and Andy Lennox were opposed.

Staff members were directed to apply for all necessary approvals and permits once the site plan, construction drawings and tender documents are complete.