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Councillor - Town of Blue Mountains

Time for review and reassessment of the old Town Hall

Madame Mayor, Council and Town Staff
Re:The Old Town Hall – A Time for Review and Reassessment , 01/10/2011

My name is Michael Seguin and I’m here speaking on behalf of both the Blue Mountain Ratepayers Association and many concerned and supportive citizens and ratepayers of this community.

All members of this new Council heard many requests from ratepayers and voters to review a previous Council decision to demolish the existing town hall – a community asset that was paid for and maintained by the taxpayer over the past 26 years. In our opinion, this decision was not given “due process” and was made without sufficient public participation from the taxpayers.

On December 7th, I submitted a letter to Mayor and Council with over 100 authorized signatures (which has now grown to 122 by tonight) requesting that they now consider carrying out a more detailed, public and transparent review and reassessment of this asset – one that will involve direct participation by ratepayers and by councilors and that all of Council should direct the process. I must point out to you that the 122 signatories represents only a handful of the number of people that are interested in your decision. Also a survey on the BMRA web site indicates that 90% of the respondents (52) are in favour of pursuing the cost/benefits of keeping the old town hall for alternative uses. This is significant as it represents about 20% of our family membership base.

In an email correspondence to me one day later, on December 8th, Mr. Graham, the town’s CAO, advised me that the Mayor has requested him and his staff to prepare a report to Council outlining the facts that led to the original decision to demolish the old town hall and would look at the cost implications of various alternatives. We were obviously taken aback by this attempt to dismiss our more open review – and replaced by one of narrower and limited scope. In our opinion asking the same people who performed the initial review and provided Council with the demolition recommendation, lacks independence and fails to provide the transparency that the Blue Mountain ratepayers and this Council deserve. Simply put, this is not what we consider good governance.

We are asking for a review that not only involves staff but also involves public participation by the ratepayers and by councilors. This is the only way that we can achieve a comprehensive and fully-objective result.

In considering the cost benefits for alternative uses, we must keep in mind that the old town hall is not old by today’s standards (having been constructed in 1984) and is still considered to be a very functional and usable building – one that has provided a safe office environment for some 45 employees over the past three years or during the planning stages of the new town hall. The only reasons for leaving this building are outlined in a June 11, 2007 staff report – they include

inadequate work spaces, lack of meeting and public space, lack of communication work space and the need for Council chambers and work space. The staff made no mention about the quality and deficiencies of the structural, mechanical and electrical components of the building and we are not aware of any monies that have been spent on the building in the last three years to upgrade any deficient standards or codes.

We recognize that there may be some costs or budget impacts associated to converting the building to alternative uses. But we don’t need to make changes that reflect LEED standards or upgrades to exceptional building code standards. Of course, we also recognize that using the building for a professional type use like a medical clinic will require more substantial upgrades and costs.

With regards to suggested alternative uses – we are hoping that the process of an open and transparent review of this asset will determine whether or not there are any alternative or possible uses. We have not openly and clearly ruled out demolition as an option.

The public has suggested many uses including a medical centre, affordable housing units, a tourist information centre, offices with meeting rooms – but the most suggested use is a mutli-use community and recreation centre.

A multi-use community and recreation centre can provide a central location (within walking distance for many) for activities and services for youths, seniors and meeting space for small not-for-profit organizations. This town has been very pro-active in recent years in promoting recreational facilities and activities for youths and seniors. The old town hall provides a great opportunity to expand on these facilities.

In Summary

As many people have pointed out to me and you heard during the election, the process of an independent review and reassessment of a potential valuable asset is necessary to convince the public that this town is truly open and transparent. As I have written to Mr. Graham, if the process works (no matter what the outcome), then it will be great win-win or no-lose situation for everyone including the town and this Council.

I trust that this new Council will make the right decision and proceed in the manner that we have suggested – that is, a time for an independent and more broad scope review and reassessment.

Thank you.

Michael P. Seguin
President, Blue Mountain Ratepayers Association

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