County passes bylaw to negotiate purchase of five libraries

County council authorized the warden and clerk on Sept. 25 to reach an agreement to purchase the Fer­gus and Elora Carnegie libra­ries.

Council also approved pro­posed design renovations to the Elora library and authorized the tenders to be let as soon as the plans are completed.

Centre Wellington council will have to authorize the sale of the two buildings to the county.

The county wants them because they are both historic buildings that were paid through donations by American philanthropist Andrew Carne­gie, who built over 1,000 libraries in Canada, the United States, and Great Britain because he believed they help­ed enable him to make his fortune.

Library committee chair­man Brad Whitcombe said the building committee overseeing the renovation work in Elora was one of the largest for the project’s size, mainly because there was much local interest.

But, he added of the results, “I hope you are pleased. I know I am. It’s really respectful of a heritage building.”

Whitcombe said the county received $50,000 in grants to help pay for an elevator.

Councillor Joanne Ross-Zuj, the mayor of Centre Wellington, thanked Whit­combe and his committee for making a site visit, and she added that “everyone felt a part of the process.”

L. Alan Grinham Architect, Inc., of Guelph, did the work on the renovation plan. He said meetings began in late July, and the design evolved after several of those.

At first, accessibility and protecting heritage were the key issues. Then, other features, such as new washrooms were added.

The rear of the building will receive an addition of approxi­mately 1,000 square feet, and there will be a full interior up­grade of lights and mechanicals for the building, which will celebrate its 100th birthday in 2009.

Grinham said the building’s envelope will be improved with energy saving upgrades, and will more than meet the coun­ty’s Green Legacy building standards for energy efficiency. As well, there will be work on the exterior of the building, and some landscaping. There will be a new staff area and more program space.

The size of the book col­lection will increase, and the floor area will increase by about 33 per cent.

There will be a new en­trance at the rear of the build­ing, near the elevator, and the facades of the building from all sides will consider the current building and its historic nature.

Grinham noted the rear entrance will be bar­rier free, and accessible to not only wheelchairs, but also scooters. It can be used easily by seniors and others who have handicaps.

“We’re taking it to quite a higher level of accessibility,” Grinham said.

Whitcombe said he hopes tenders can be called by mid October, close in early Novem­ber, and be awarded by the end of that month.

Councillor Bob Wilson told council he hopes the mechan­ical upgrades for the building are top notch. As an electrician who works in many public buildings, Wilson said he pre­fers sound mechanical struc­tures to appearances.

“I’d soon see less paint on the walls and an adequate mechanical system,” he said.

Warden John Green assured Wilson he will be pleased with the plans.

Councillor Gord Tosh asked what it will cost to complete the renovations.

Treasurer Craig Dyer said the estimate is $940,000.

Council then approved the design. Later in the meeting, it gave the final reading to the bylaw for negotiating the sale of the Fergus and Elora Carnegie libraries, as well as libraries built on similar grants in Pal­merston, Harriston, and Mount Forest.

Those agreements still need some work before they are completed. Minto and Wellington North have given approval for the sales, but Wellington North had some concerns to be considered.

The county wants to purchase the buildings for a nominal sum, and has written into the deal that if they ever stop being used as libraries, they will revert to local ownership.