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More funding gives the County option to reconsider addressing Shire Hall upgrades

With the announcement today of joint funding from the federal and provincial government to improve municipal infrastructure, the County may reconsider how to improve live-streaming and tackle renovations at Shire Hall.

Bay of Quinte MP Neil Ellis and MPP Todd Smith announced $199,174 in funding for the County from the COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure Stream of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program, a cost-shared, application-based infrastructure funding opportunity.

In May, council had shelved the renovation project, asking staff to investigate other uses for previous grant money received that needs to be substantially completed by the end of the year.

Prince Edward County Mayor Steve Ferguson stated today that COVID-19 and the associated restrictions have served to reinforce the limitations at Shire Hall – especially with regard to quality live-streaming.

“Thanks to this funding from the federal and provincial government, the County of Prince Edward will have the option to consider addressing the accessibility and technological challenges of the Council Chambers and reduce the barriers to participating in the democratic process at the local level,” he stated.

Government guidelines state renovated public areas are to be fully accessible by 2025, but in May, several councillors agreed the $428,627 project may be premature. ($130,000 was to be funded from the Municipal Modernization Funding already received).

A full accommodation plan for Shire Hall is still under way, and council stated renovation plans presented didn’t fully solve accessibility issues. Council noted the 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.

The allowed uses for application of funding announced today included supporting upgrades to improve and protect important municipal buildings such as town centres and emergency and healthcare facilities. Additional investments will rehabilitate recreational and community infrastructure across Eastern Ontario and include improvements to local trail and pedestrian path systems.

Belleville received $920,000 to upgrade five parks and create a new dog park. It also received $202,996 to reconstruct the River Road sidewalk.

Quinte West received $447,002 to expand and beautify the Centennial Park Waterfront Trail.

The County of Hastings will spend its $100,000 to replace the tile floor in the common areas and corridors at Hastings Manor long-term care.

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  1. Kevin says:

    Where is this money coming from? We haven’t begun to tally the cost of the pandemic. Money seems to be no object at all levels of government. We will be paying taxes/fees through the nose when this is all said and done. Save your pennies people.

  2. ayar says:

    You’re right Fred – fingers worked faster than brain and it should have been Ameliasburgh reps that would have had a population advantage.

  3. Fred says:

    Sophiasburgh only has one Councilor. Ameliasburgh three. If we were to forget and remove old townships and now wards which serve no purpose whatsoever then County wide voting makes good sense.

  4. ayar says:

    I agree that council size should be reduced but countywide voting gives an unfair advantage to reps from Sophiasburgh. Go to mayor plus 9 councillors from 3 new districts: PEC West – Ameliasburgh and Hillier; PEC Central – Sophiasburgh,Hallowell, Bloomfield and Wellington; PEC East – Picton, Athol, North Marysburgh and South Marysburgh. This would give roughly equal populations to elect 3 councillors in each district and avoid the north/south divide.

  5. Dennis Fox says:

    As we know, Council did have the opportunity (several in fact) to balance the system and to give equal representation to all voters in PEC. Instead, they chose not to follow their own survay results, not to follow the recommendations of either the Citizan’s Assembly nor County staff advice, and invented their own system of represntation on the spot. The responswibility for our current system rests soley with council – and it is costing us dearly.

  6. Michelle says:

    Yes, I feel disenfranchised being only to elect 1 Councilor while my girlfriend gets to elect 3.

  7. Fred says:

    This raises the old thorn. All residents voting rights and representation is not equal. Living in Ameliasburgh you can vote and elect 3 candidates representing your views. If you live in Athol for example you get to elect one voice. Very unfair system and surprised it has not been legally challenged on terms of voter equity.

  8. Mark says:

    I agree as most residents did that Council needs a significant reduction but don’t hold your breath of that ever being entertained again. A council of 8 and a Mayor would be adequate and voted upon County wide instead of Wards.

  9. Dennis Fox says:

    I truly believe that democracy must include active participation on the part of the public and promotd by those we elect. The idea of “online democracy” is one that is only supported by those members of the public who are either too old to travel, or are unwilling to attend meetings. We have experienced during this time of COVID how ineffective virtual meetings and decision making has been.

    Before spending any more money of Shire Hall, I would first like to see the size of council reduced by another 5 or 6, and then plan a new council area based on a smaller council. The savings in council size of at least $100k a year would help pay for any cost over-runs that we know will happen – plus the public gets a much more efficient council,

  10. Susan says:

    Online deputations by the public do not have the same impact to Council as in person. It is important for the public to be present during serious Council decisions.

  11. Gary Mooney says:

    With advances in live streaming and in provisions for online services and online payments, the need for the public to come to Shire Hall will become less and less. This will also reduce the problem of disabled access by reducing the need for physical attendance.

    Also, it may be that County staff will have increased opportunities for remote work.

    For these reasons, this is not the time to be planning major upgrades / expansion of physical locations to accommodate the public.

  12. ayar says:

    Shire Hall is totally outdated and could be turned into a far more beneficial building for a non-council/municipal staff use and generate rental income or a substantial amount if sold. Put money to one side while coming up with plans to build a new municipal building – council in a circle not a horseshoe, council chambers on the ground floor and full accessibility. Bring in the municipal employees from The Edward building and save the rent. Make the new building truly sustainable using climate-friendly systems – geothermal heating and cooling – and have a minimal greenhouse gas emission impact. There are plenty of funding/grant opportunities for such a development.

  13. Mike Rodgers says:

    The county blew it when they had the chance to buy the Amoury mall or the legion. Both building would have been idea for all the offices, no more offices at the Edward. I believe at the time each building went for around a million.

  14. angela says:

    Let’s tear down Shire Hall by all means and replace it with a modern building with zero character like our new post office. Street access to any Picton building is all but non-existent now thanks to tourism and sidewalk patios. The cost received for renos is a pittance compared to what it would cost to build a new county building.

  15. Chuck says:

    Shire Hall is an ancient non accessible mess not only the scructure but ability to access from the street. It’s day is finished. Any reno is a waste of tax dollars.

  16. Argyle says:

    Is this the first step by council to replace Shire Hall with a new municipal building? No doubt this would lead to an increase in the tax rate because free government money will never cover the complete cost of any project.

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