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Council selects Save Picton Town Hall ‘Hall for All’ as preferred proposal

UPDATE: Just past 1 a.m., council passed a motion to select the Save Picton Town Hall ‘Hall for All’ as the preferred proposal and to work with the group on terms of reference for a board of management structure. The group has 18 months from the appointment of the board to secure necessary capital funding required to meet objectives of their plan, and staff will report back to council no later than the second Committee of the Whole meeting in May. Ongoing operations are contingent on the board’s ability to achieve full cost recovery for operations and maintenance of the facilities and secure a suitable lease with an anchor tenant. Staff will report back to council with updates in six month intervals.

The decision followed four hours of deputations and comments from the audience, some further council business, then further discussion and several amendments.

18 delegations scheduled to speak to fate of Picton’s Town Hall

Picton Town Hall

There are 18 delegations scheduled for Tuesday night’s council meeting wanting to speak to the fate of Picton’s Town Hall. They each have up to 10 minutes to speak. Comments will also be allowed from public members in attendance, but are limited to three minutes each.

At February’s Committee of the Whole meeting, councillors spoke to the difficulty of voting with their hearts to be fiscally responsible, or to their hearts, to honour community and heritage, while reviewing two polar expressions of interest.

On council’s agenda is approval of a motion to defer the two submissions, directing staff to provide council with an expedited request for proposals process – including full consideration of a public private partnership option that would assure the public good and permanent heritage value; as well as assure indefinite public access at no, or minimal cost increase to community groups. The request, including final recommendations, is to completed within eight months.

Council also wants a recent market analysis on the property and an update on capital repairs needed.

One of the two submissions “A Hall for All” comes from the Save Picton Town Hall group which proposes maintained municipal ownership, operating the facility through a board of management. The upper level would continue as a Town Hall, the lower, former fire department, would be renovated and operated as office, commercial and retail space.

The second was from Michael David Hymus, of Hymus Holdings, offering $525,000 for the hall, plus a $250,000 donation to the Picton Library expansion.

He proposes an innovative 50-unit modest pod style hotel/hostel with rates of $30-$45 per night to service the sports tourism, business and younger visitor market with affordable, centralized accommodation which he says is currently under serviced in the County, sending those visitors north in neighbouring communities.

He states the use of surrounding land will be community focused and could include an outdoor ice rink similiar to the one he provides in Wellington, and an “inviting streetscape with public gathering points for year-round enjoyment”.

Though both proposals align with current priorities in the municipality, staff in their report, favoured the community proposal for its potential to reduce operating costs of the facility while allowing activities that support seniors needs, education, agriculture, cultural heritage, arts, business start-ups and “sense of belonging”.

It was also noted an increasing number of the County’s Town Halls are being operated successfully under board of management models, including Mt. Tabor in Milford, the South Marysburgh Hall, a portion of Bloomfield’s Town Hall and a current proposal for the Wellington Town Hall.

Lindsay Reid, of Branch Architecture, is sharing renovation drawings and the Baxter Engineering Report from 2012.

Former councillor Bev Campbell is scheduled to lead the deputations Tuesday night urging council to approve the staff recommendation to select the Save Picton Town Hall submission.

“The vision for the plan is to preserve the historic Picton Town Hall building as a public asset that will pay economic, social and cultural dividends far into the future. This plan connects a beautiful gathering space for arts and community use upstairs to tenant space for learning and small business innovation downstairs. Around it will be a farmers’ market. A hall for all.”

She and others in support note the municipality will save $55,000 annually by eliminating the current annual net loss from operating the hall and that future operating success has potential for building reserves to address future capital needs.

“500 named individuals from across the County have expressed their support,” she states. “People are ready to make it happen.”

Stephanie Bell addresses the hall as a vital space for those struggling financially.

“If you can barely afford rent and food, life becomes very limited and painful. It can become lonely and grim,” her deputation states. “When you’re in poverty you become uber isolated because you can’t afford to go and do most things… You become separated from normal life. But cheap or free community events and public spaces can keep you sane. They can bring you back into the fold of social life.”

A deputation from Dale Smith, who lives across from the Town Hall, states that though the hall should be run more efficiently, with fiscal responsibility, he does not want “to live across from a pub with grease fans blowing 24/7, drunks in Benson Park late into the night doing God knows what; late night noise complaints every night as our bedroom windows face this building…”

He suggests town offices could occupy the lower floor “rather than draining precious revenue by renting elsewhere”.

“At present it’s poorly run, not financially sound, not promoted and nearly impossible to book – let alone find a schedule of events or possible openings online.”

“Give this group Save Picton Town Hall a chance to get it running smoothly… these are the best kind of community partners and neighbours to have – not just for our home but for the entire community.”

David Hymus is also scheduled to make a deputation with a brief outline of his vision and business plan.

“My belief is that with the $55,000 per year in savings, plus the revenue from the sale of the asset and future taxes that would be generated, there would be more than enough funds to help these groups offset the costs of renting the community centre.

“One councillor did make this suggestion and it was met with conflict in which the non-profit members state the floor isn’t soft enough, the centre is too large and not quaint enough. Other reasons are ‘where we would hang the portraits of the previous mayors, the chairs aren’t comfortable and that the HVAC system is loud’. All of these objections could be simply overcome with minimal effort and these groups could easily be relocated.”

He reminds he has invested in excess of $10 million into the County, purchasing derelict properties.

“I employ as many as 70 local residents, carry a payroll which exceeds $2.5 million annual, have donated over $500,000 to various groups and pay property tax that is nearing $100,000 per year. My goal with acquiring the fire hall was to invest another $1.7 million into our downtown core – to create much needed accommodations, as well as a food and beverage aspect. My goal was also to create more jobs, increase our tax base and bring more commerce to the downtown area which would in turn support local shops and businesses.”

He states his “fight is weakened with chirps and comments on Facebook… and “more insults and comments which are nothing but hurtful to someone who has worked so hard and given so much to a community that he cares very much about.”

Council meets at 7p.m. at Shire Hall.

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  1. Doris Lane says:

    I did not say save the town hall as preferred
    I said sell it as the preferred action to take

  2. Doris Lane says:

    I think the County has plenty of meeting places and we do not need another building to keep up.
    We should sell it to the highest bidder.
    The taxes in the county are too high and we need to sell some of our buildings and lower taxes.
    I would love to move to an area where taxes and water were lower.
    Council should remember they are spending other peoples money.
    Just stop the spending on unnecessary things
    Just take a hard look at whatever the county owns and clear the slate

  3. Gary Mooney says:

    I can understand that quite a few community groups and citizens wanted to save the Town Hall for public use. Me too. But understand that the effect on the County’s budget and taxes will impact those on low and/or fixed incomes the most.

  4. Gary says:

    Once again I must maintain that this building is not the old fire hall. It is and always was the Town Hall. The Fire Dep’t were a temporary user of space. For that very reason, there should never have been a plan to recover debt expense toward the new fire hall from our Town Hall.

  5. Jack says:

    Time will tell if this was a good decision, again the County has increased debt by not sticking to their original decision to use the sale of the old fire hall to lower the debt for the new fire hall. Congrats to the councillors who voted against this decision and I hope they will make this group adhere to their plan.

  6. Susan says:

    Who pays for the capital and maintenance costs of Mt Tabor?

  7. Fred says:

    Ridiculous. The former Wellington arena was near being condemmed. The new arena was very needed and was well worth every penny. It’s these type facilities that build communities.

  8. Mike Rodgers says:

    Todd I do not know if it is possible to find the document, but the white elephant in Wellington when the arena situations way back when were considered we saw council hire a consultant to see what Prince Edward should do about aging arenas.If I am not mistaken that report, that was shelved in a waste basket stated than with the decline of the populus and the existing two arenas no arena was needed. We all know where this story ended. This is one of the many reasons we are broke. As this hall issue unfolds we are now more broke.

  9. Todd says:

    Mike Rodgers, spot on. We have the Rotary Hall at the Picton Arena that sits empty much of the time. Most people I speak to think the hall should be sold. The County is in no financial position to own this building. I applaud Councillors Bolik, Nieman and Roberts who rightly voted with their heads.

  10. Paul Cole says:

    The majority spoke and I think council had no choice but to listen to what the People of Prince Edward County wanted. So lets give credit where credit is due to the Volunteers of Save Picton Town Hall ‘Hall for All’ and the People of The County. Kudos to You Folks and Thank You…

  11. Gary says:

    The puzzling piece of all this is why funding of a new “Prince Edward” fire hall was ever funding reliant upon sale of Picton”s Town Hall in the first place. That was a misguided decision. Just because the fire department took up space in our Hall, it doesnt make our Hall any more disposable than any other in the County.

    Pleased that reasoning prevailed.

  12. Brenda says:

    Congratulations to the Town Hall for All committee. Good presentations and look forward to more happening at our Town Hall.
    Kudos to the council for their patience at the meeting and for making the right decision.

  13. Marc Keelan-Bishop says:

    What great news! This building is historic and was donated to the citizens of the County. Once these public buildings are sold they never become public again. Frankly, it’s ridiculous to say “I’ve never been in that building so therefore it doesn’t matter“

  14. Chuck says:

    A Hall for All gets the nod at 1:05 am.

  15. Michelle says:

    Should have held this Council meeting at the historic Town Hall so all that want to attend could attend. Would have made a very fitting setting.

  16. Mike Rodgers says:

    Further to this discussion just like the store in Wellington their is a reasonably small group pushing the agenda while the silent majority do not give a rats behind. This is how this county has got into a mess. Common sense has been thrown out the window. So a developer buys it. Put restriction on how he wants to develop it. the special interest groups can get mats for the hard floors and the arenas have walls for pictures.

  17. Mike Rodgers says:

    I do not believe anyone is planning to tear the hall down. We have halls not being used. I suggest that if this is so important then turn the halls at the arenas into office space for the county and stop renting the Edward.

  18. SW says:

    I have been in that building only once in my 40 years. I know plenty of people who never set foot in it. It does nothing for me as a resident.

  19. Mark says:

    You miss the point Mike. It is the historical presence of the Towns central meeting place. It has true meaning to the residents. To lose this to further service tourists is just not right.

  20. Mike Rodgers says:

    Have you ever gone by either of the two arenas in the county. There halls are for the most part empty.

  21. gilles says:

    On the agenda for Council, March 12th, are listed 18 deputations; 17 of those deputations support the proposal of the SPTH Working Group, members who have voluntered and dedicated their time to producing the proposal. This proposal was deemed the “preferred and recommended proposal” of County Staff, who were directed to study and advise as to the “highest and best use” of The Picton Town Hall. This group has done the “heavy lifting”, and we have expended a great amount of time and energy in dispelling the myths surrounding the building, and in developing a fiscally responsible management plan. The other proposal plans on turning over publicly-owned cutural and community space to accomodate the growing needs of the tourist sector. There is already a housing crisis in The County. We do not want to suffer a crisis of public spaces for the residents of The County. One meeting space, previously used for numerous public and cultural groups, is currently being converted to tourist accommodation. Enough is enough. Save our Picton Town Hall for the people! That was its original intention, and why it was built. #ahallforall

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