Forty per cent of Carman House repair fund spent on consultants

South Dundas director of building, planning and enforcement Don J.W. Lewis (right) explained to council at the September 18th meeting why an architectural engineer was hired to prepare a report on Carman House. (The Leader/Blancher photo)

MORRISBURG – South Dundas council thought they had made a final decision about the Carman House and its longtime tenant back in March. But now, they are being forced to revisit the issue, with the added roadblock of now being in a lame duck position.

The latest report by Donald Lewis, director of planning and enforcement for the municipality recommends two options; 1) remove the residential tenancy occupancy from the building or 2) proceed with renovations outlined in a new report that showing that $93,605 worth of work is required to bring the building up to code.

“Option one was already defeated by council,” said South Dundas deputy mayor Jim Locke. “And option 2, this council is not in a position to budget the money to do it.”

Because council is in a lame duck position they can only spend money on projects that are already in the budget. When council decided March 15th that the Carman House apartment tenant could stay rather than face eviction, they budgeted $35,000 for repairs to the building, based on information staff had presented at the time.

While presenting his latest report to council, Lewis revealed that, to date, no actual repairs or renovation work has taken place on the apartment.

Carman House – File photo

“On March 15th council instructed staff to do $35,000 work to make it livable for the tenant,” said South Dundas councillor Bill Ewing demanding to know what had been done so far.

At that point, Lewis said that they had been on site investigating, and that they had used $14,000 of the $35,000 budget allocation to commission an architects’ report about what work needed to be done to bring the building up to code for tenancy.

“You had a list of deficiencies and were given direction to fix those deficiencies. We already had an engineers’ report, and that’s the information we used. The $35,000 was to do the work, not to do another report,” said Ewing.

Lewis explained that the architect report had to be done because it’s a requirement of the building code, and that the renovations outline in the report are to bring the building up to minimum code standards only.

Councillor Marc St. Pierre then questioned, “So why did we waste our money – taxpayers money – getting the other estimates?”

Lewis took exception to St. Pierre’s comments that money was wasted.

“In your profession you know what’s needed,” said Lewis.

St. Pierre is a senior project manager with an Ottawa area civil engineering firm.

“Yes and we do these things once. We don’t waste taxpayer money doing things over and over again,” replied St. Pierre.

He argued that council’s direction was clearly to spend money on repairs, and added that if another study was required the money should come directly from either Lewis’ or Ben McPherson’s operating budgets, not from the repair budget.

“I think this is an embarrassment,” said St. Pierre, clearly agitated by the discussion. “This is an embarrassment to the municipality. I’m certainly embarrassed! Here we go again. We’re sitting here and we haven’t done anything. We’ve clearly been around the block three or four times on this specific subject. We’re lame duck now and we can’t do anything about it.”

“We’re going to pass this on to the next council, as distasteful as that is to me,” said South Dundas councillor Archie Mellan.

In the end it was decided that staff will come back to council with a list of repair items that can move forward within the $21,000 left from the $35,000.

In all previous discussions where council was considering removing the tenant from the upstairs Carman House apartment, mayor Delegarde declared conflict of interest because she is related to the longtime tenant.

The apartment continues to be occupied the same model tenant that has resided there for about 30 years, but during the September 18th council discussions, Delegarde chose not to declare conflict of interest.

During an outburst, a clearly angry councillor Marc St. Pierre pointed out that she had declared conflict on this issue before. “Why are you even talking?” he demanded. Her answer: “Because (before) you were dealing with the tenant.”