The tenders for the rehabilitation of the Morrisburg Collegiate Institute building left municipal officials with sticker shock when the bids came in about a million dollars higher than they had expected, so much so that have not yet decided how they will proceed with the project.
Since the bids to convert the historic building into a new clinic and administrative facility were opened about a month ago, municipal staff, project managers and the design team have undertaken much analysis and research to prepare a report for council which was presented at the Aug. 14 meeting.
Municipal officials had expected to see bids in the range of $3 million, but instead the prices submitted by the pre-qualified contractors were in the $4 million range, with the lowest coming it at almost $3.9 million.
“It became apparent, as the project evolved, that it was a very complex project – maintaining the heritage aspects of the building while upgrading it to current standards,” reported Stephen McDonald, South Dundas chief administrative officer. “And, it can be assumed that the complexity of the project is reflected in the prices.”
The renovation project will consist of removing everything but the shell and will cost about $150 per square foot. The 20 year borrowing costs to finance the large scale project are equivalent to a tax increase of 2 to 3.5 percent, depending on the success of South Dundas’ Community Infrastructure Improvement Fund application.
“The township has applied for $1 million funding under the CIIF,” reported McDonald. “This program is for existing infrastructure only and a new building would not be eligible to receive funding.”
According to the report presented to council the financial cost to construct a new building will be at least $6 million, not to mention the cost of lost time in getting such a project underway.
South Dundas mayor Steven Byvelds asked council to state their preferred direction for staff offering up the options of; doing nothing, going with the project as presented, starting over with a new building or deferring the decision until September to allow them time to gauge the public’s reaction.
“I don’t think doing nothing is a good option,” said the mayor.
Only South Dundas councillor Jim Graham was willing to make a decision to get the project moving.
“Everybody was surprised by the cost, that’s for sure,” he said. “But if we don’t go ahead there’s a ripple effect to a lot of other plans. I think the time has come that we have to present an image that we are open for business. I am ready to support this, as is.”
“Going to the public, we won’t get a consensus,” said Graham. “This is a decision we, as a council will have to make. That’s what we’re here for.”
“We obviously can’t afford a new building, so it’s the old building or nothing. I definitely don’t think doing nothing is an option,” said Graham.
Every member of council agreed that doing nothing is not an option.
South Dundas councillor Evonne Delegarde is supporting starting over and pursuing a new building. “With the rehabilitation, we’ll still have an old building,” she said. “It’s hard to believe it will cost that much more to build a new building.”
CAO McDonald pointed out that a similar new building project now taking place in Winchester shows that the numbers presented in the report are accurate and valid.
Delegarde also suggested going back to the doctors of the St. Lawrence Medical Clinic to contribute more money to the project, now that the actual costs have come in higher than anticipated.
“It is a tough decision,” said South Dundas deputy mayor Jim Locke, who was not yet willing to make a final decision. However he did say, “If we do nothing with that building, I feel it will have to come down. We can’t leave it sit there with snow fence around it.”
South Dundas councillor Archie Mellan, like Locke, was not willing to make a decision. “I’m not prepared tonight to say one way or another,” he said, later adding that he will be prepared to make a decision at the next council meeting. “I’ll tell you then, which side of the fence I’m jumping to.”
Mayor Byvelds said, “My leaning is to go ahead and bring this project to fruition.” However, he was willing to respect his fellow councillors who have not yet decided and support deferral until the next meeting.
“We’ll let this settle out within the public sphere,” he said. “As a council, it’s our responsibility to listen. Listen well, but filter through it,” he told council.
The decision will be made at the September 4 council meeting.