Mapleton shifts gears on upgrades to administration centre

MAPLETON – Township officials are shifting focus from extending, to renovating, the municipal office here.

In March of 2022, the township issued a call for design tenders for an 800-square-foot addition to the municipal office to house the township’s building department.

In a report to council at the time, then-chief building official Patty Wright explained the addition would allow building department staff to all be located within the same area, facilitating cross-training and providing a more customer-friendly experience for the public.

However, on May 23 CAO Manny Baron told council he later “made kind of an executive decision to not proceed that way.”

Baron said staff numbers at the time he reversed the decision didn’t warrant the additional space and the initial budget of $700,000  “would probably end up being a million dollars or so.”

Baron said staff are instead now proposing the administration centre basement be renovated to accommodate the building department.

“It’s going to cost anywhere from $100,000 to $150,000 maybe, to refresh; redo the walls, add office space downstairs as opposed to what it would have cost us, $700,000, to add an addition,” Baron explained.

Baron told council the original basement renovation plan called for adding a lift for the purposes of complying with Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) requirements.

“It’s intended for municipalities to be fully compliant by 2025,” said Baron.

“But the amount of money that we’d have to spend to be fully compliant in all of our buildings by 2025 just seems a little bit … outrageous to me.”

Baron added that after staff members contacted OADA officials directly, they determined as long as staff can come upstairs to serve customers with accessibility challenges on the main floor, the arrangement would be “adequate.”

Plans for the basement renovation call for adding a second exit “to make sure there are two ways to get out,” Baron noted.

A staff report indicates the anticipated cost to install a lift would have been approximately $250,000.

“We again consulted with a representative from AODA to confirm if this is indeed a requirement and we were assured that as long as we can properly serve those with disabilities, the installation of a lift is not mandatory,” the report states.

“By changing course and renovating the basement we will save approximately $500,000.

“It is our intention to ensure our building is accessible to all members of the community and we will continue to explore options to achieve this goal.”

Pickup truck purchase

Baron told council staff is recommending the purchase of a pickup truck for the building department, using some of the savings from the previously-approved expansion project.

“Currently, the building department shares a vehicle with public works, which limits their ability to conduct inspections as required,” the staff report states.

“The proposed purchase of a pickup truck will enable the building department to carry out inspections without the need to reserve a vehicle.

“This strategy is in response to an increased demand for inspections, which calls for a more efficient and effective approach to service delivery.”

The report estimates the cost of the pick-up truck at between $50,000 and $60,000.

Baron stressed funds for the renovation and the vehicle are “absolutely not on the tax base.”

“It is completely through the building department fund, which was paid by the fees that we charge” for building department services, he explained.

The report noted the building department reserve fund for capital projects and equipment contained about $968,000 as of Dec. 31.

Councillor Marlene Ottens asked if the basement renovation could be done in a way that would allow an elevator to be “easily incorporated” into the plan “in case we get an employee who requires the elevator at some point, or if the AODA requirements suddenly say we have to have it.”

Baron said if a decision was made to add a lift later, “it’s easily done.”

“As far as the building department, is a pickup truck necessarily what’s needed to visit sites? Or is that kind of something to be explored?” asked councillor Martin Tamlyn.

“We probably need a four-by-four,” said Baron.

“The sites they go on, especially in the winter, they need something to get traction and get to the building sites … not so much in the urban area, but certainly in the rural areas.”

Public works director Jamie Morgan confirmed a truck was the building department’s preferred option.

“We did have a hybrid option in there. In talking to the dealers about the truck, it just wasn’t viable for a hybrid at this time,” Morgan explained.

“And we like to also keep our fleet very similar … because sometimes they do get repurposed and that truck may at some point end up back in public works.”

Council received the report for information and directed staff to explore options and create a request-for-proposals to acquire an additional vehicle.