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Councillors say renovations to Shire Hall chamber are premature

Without knowing if Shire Hall will remain as the best place for council to meet in the long-term, council expressed preference to not move forward with renovations to the chamber and instead, asked staff to investigate other uses for grant money that would receive approval from the province.

Noting a full accommodation plan for Shire Hall is still under way, councillor Ernie Margetson stated a renovation of the chamber would be premature, doesn’t fully solve accessibility issues and could be difficult, with higher costs, due to contractor and material shortages during the pandemic.

Renovated public areas are to be fully accessible by 2025.

“While it might be warranted to improve some space and accessibility features on that floor, I think it’s premature at this point to expand the chamber when ultimately it may not be the best solution in the long term.”

Several councillors and the mayor agreed, adding the COVID-19 pandemic has also caused enough disruption without further movement of staff to other buildings, as would be necessary to complete renovations – especially during a busy summer season.

In agreement with the others, councillor Janice Maynard added “There’s no such thing as free money. It’s still tax payers money and we should spend it responsibly.”

The new look for the chamber at Shire Hall was presented at Thursday’s Committee of the Whole meeting by Branch Architecture of Milford, the only company to bid on the project, showing a reoriented council horseshoe made of modular furniture to create changeable space, design to provide technology for better public engagement, and answer a requirement for accessibility adding a washroom.

The $428,627 project would have had to be substantially completed by end of year to meet grant funding timelines. $130,000 was to be funded from the Municipal Modernization Funding already received.

Emily Cowan, Community Programs, noted she would investigate alternatives for use of the grant funding and see if plans could be changed as the money is tied to meeting space, accessibility and interaction with council.

Use of the chamber physically-distanced.

How modular furniture could be moved when the public is again allowed to be present at meetings.

The proposed renovation of the chamber flips the current horseshoe layout. It was suggested modular furniture be used to provide extra space for physical distancing as parts can be removed to reduce the horseshoe size when the public gallery is re-introduced to the space, and provide more accessible seating.

A new councillor-only entrance would be located roughly where the entrance to the mayor’s office currently exists. The mayor and part of the clerk’s office, as well as the board room, would no longer exist on the second floor. The redistribution of the lost office and meeting space would be considered as part of the forthcoming accommodation plan.

The design allowed for two accessible washrooms across from the entrance to the chambers. A bench and water bottle filling station could also be accommodated in this area and though they are are over and above the expansion.

Shire Hall was constructed in 1874, including the council chambers on the second floor.

Filed Under: Local News

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  1. Michelle says:

    This building has seen it’s day and is not worth very expensive renovations. It is not even accessible from the street as how does one get there with no crosswalks?

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