Centre Wellington council approved on Monday a five-year lease on a rent-to-own basis for a property on Mill Street to house parts of local government.
The vote was 4-3, with Mayor Joanne Ross-Zuj having the deciding vote.
The issue is one of space for the Elora library, which is in the process of being sold to Wellington County, and which will be receiving nearly $1-million in upgrades. The township’s economic development and tourism office is located in the library basement, and staff will need a new place to work.
The county wants to buy the libraries to not only own its own libraries, but also to preserve the historic Carnegie libraries, which were donated to several towns in Wellington County by American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.
The deal would be to sell the libraries for a nominal sum; the county would keep them in good condition, and if the buildings ever stop being used as libraries, their ownership would revert to the local municipalities for the same nominal sale price.
The renovations will make the library building in Elora more accessible to seniors and the handicapped.
The township also rents space on Metcalfe Street for a storefront OPP office, and that, too, would be moved to the rental building on Mill Street East.
Councillors Bob Foster, Walt Visser, and Ron Hallman opposed the rental.
When asked during question period why he was opposed, Visser said with economic uncertainty in the country, now is not the time to get involved in long-term leases.
“I thing we should avoid long-term agreements,” he said. “I think there are other ways of solving the problem.”
Foster added, “I couldn’t have said it better.”
Hallman said after the meeting he has opposed the deal since it was suggested.
Councillor Fred Morris, though, defended it. “Other ways were looked at and found to be not the right solution by the majority of council.”
The mayor explained at the committee of the whole meeting on Sept. 22 that economic development officer Dave Rushton had located the building, and that the rent is not a heavy cost. Ross-Zuj said council is looking to optimize the space it has, and there may be more changes.
Council authorized a bylaw to begin the lease process. Ross-Zuj said when the deal is arranged, it will have to come back to council for ratification.