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Recommendations to sell/divest municipal properties met with disapproval

Recommendations to sell or divest several County town halls, former fire halls, Mount Tabor Playhouse and the soon to be former H.J. McFarland Memorial Home were met with disapproval by council Tuesday night.

Prince Edward County had contracted KPMG Canada to conduct a third-party assessment and analysis of the municipality’s real estate holdings. That report was presented at Tuesday night’s council meeting, by Bruce Peever, with KPMG Canada – for information only. It was made clear no decisions would be made without further municipal input and several consultations with the public.

Mayor Steve Ferguson stated the key missing element from the report was lack of consultation, as it was mainly focused on efficiencies and cost-savings.

“Many of these have been gathering places for decades and have major roles to play in our communities. I believe the County’s best days are ahead of us and our heritage buildings have significant roles to play. I would hate to squander any opportunity to revive and make them the community focal points they have been, and will be in the future.”

Councillor Kate MacNaughton said the report was putting the cart before the horse. “Community voices are paramount as are intangibles that don’t show up on paper.”

Councillor John Hirsch expressed disappointment the report did not have consultation with user groups, including those who have taken over operations and are re-investing profits into improvements. Those figures were not recorded in the report.

Councillor Andreas Bolik noted the report was an attempt to take a dispassionate (financial-only) view on buildings and issues that people in the communities are very passionate about. “The bottom line,” he added, “is we need to figure out what needs to stay.”

“It appears that the County has under-financed the maintenance and capital repair of the County’s buildings,” KPMG’s summary findings states. “Serious deficiencies in the state of repair were found for almost all of the County facilities. The examination of the County’s capital plans shows that the current level of maintenance will remain unchanged into the immediate future.”

The report finds the County has also not addressed accessibility requirements for a significant amount of its facilities, creating additional risk and liability.

“Lastly, the analysis shows that the level of utilization for the majority of the County’s facilities to be low.”

It recommends the County decide whether it is prepared to retain the buildings and increase funding for maintenance and accessibility, or reduce its real estate holdings to maintain ones that are well utilized.

Recommended to keep are the town halls in Bloomfield, South Marysburgh, North Marysburgh, Ameliasburgh and Athol, the Wellington and District Community Centre, Prince Edward Community Centre, Shire Hall, Lake Street Operations garage, Ameliasburgh Fire Hall/Garage, Hallowell Fire Hall, Sophiasburgh Garage, Crystal Palace, Fairground Grandstand, Wellington Museum.

Recommended for disposal (using ratings for historical significance, accessibility compliance, projected capital expenditures and projected utilization) are:

Picton Town Hall, projected to generate $850,000 if sold. 2019 costs were $85,311, revenues $5,198. Operating levy $80,113

Wellington Town Hall, projected to generate $700,000 if sold. 2019 costs were $21,010 with revenue of $925. Operating levy $20,085

Hillier Town Hall, projected at $520,000 if sold. 2019 cost was $34,450 with revenue of $1,650. Operating levy $32,910

With a new long-term care home expected to be built by 2025, it is recommended to sell the current H.J. McFarland Memorial Home for a nominal fee to the Prince Edward County Affordable Housing Corporation. 2019 operating cost $7,820,00 with revenue of $5,760,000. Operating levy $2,060,000

Benson Hall, downtown Picton, is also recommended as an ideal location for affordable housing. The building is more than 200 years old and requires significant capital improvements to meet current provincial accessibility requirements. Cost $14,744, revenue zero, operating levy $14,744

It is suggested the Demorestville Town Hall be sold to a community group for a nominal fee. The fire station attached to the back would need to be taken into consideration, and agree to be retained by purchaser. 2019 cost $37,488, revenue $2,597, operating levy $34,891

Mount Tabor Playhouse is believed to be valued at $935,000 if sold. It is managed by a board of management that retains all revenues from events. 2019 cost $22,011, zero revenue to County, for operating levy cost of $22,011

Former Consecon Fire Hall could generate $185,000 from its sale.

The sale of approximately 2.5 acres of vacant land at Prinyer’s Cove (not serviced by water) recommended to be sold with funds moved to a reserve for County buildings.

The report recommended ending the Edward Building lease on second floor (annual rental cost $184,300) and a new main floor lease has not been signed, for use while Shire Hall is under renovation. 2019 cost $322,795, revenue $244,183 for operating levy of $78,612.

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  1. angela says:

    If council can find $163,000. for a Bloomfield cross-walk for our tourists they can spring for some repairs to our historical buildings. Think of what they could save if they stopped with all of these studies. We might as well have elected the consultants because council cannot make a decision without them.

  2. Mike Rodgers says:

    I am a believer in if you do not use it sell it. In the case of said properties, if sold they should be sold with conditions to help preserve the heritage. We cannot continue to maintain, and poorly in some cases building that anything near what it costs to maintain them.
    Two things I question, why a generator at the Wellington area and not also one at the arena in Picton that services a bigger population. While on the subject of arenas why are the two arenas named differently. Should they not both be named Prince Edward community Centre’s, one Wellington and District and the other Picton and District? My second question, why do we as tax payers have to balance the McFarland Home by 2million a year while private nursing homes that are private make a profit?

  3. Dave Gray says:

    It would be great if we could save all old historical buildings, but the up keep is big big bucks and who is going to pay? the taxpayers? Prince Edward County is getting a very expensive place
    to live now, if these buildings can generate income to cover their upkeep, or if some person or group can cover the cost of their upkeep great but if not! to let them rot away does not benefit anyone. Our seniors have supported the county through their taxes for a lifetime, now many need a nursing home so lets consecrate
    on that and not old buildings, historical but of no longer use.

  4. Michelle says:

    The consultant report recommended turning Benson Hall over to the Affordable Housing Corporation. Really, housing in the middle of Picton”s central park and beside the tennis court. That makes no sense to me.

  5. Robert Sanfield says:

    Better be super careful on this file… sell an asset and NEVER be able to replace it at current price escalations…. virtually everyone of these properties are in perfect locations as community assets as well. Future acquisitions will be on the edge of town at best. It is also unfair of current government to sell assets to take immediate gain to the coffers, manage what you have. Highway 407 comes to mind, sell it to take a gain and forever after wish we had the asset to solve our current Ontario traffic issues in the GTA.

  6. Teena says:

    Dennis, you are correct on all points, bar one. The last couple of Councils, at the very least, has done their level best to “Sell” the County out from under us. Tourism apparently takes prece3dence, over residents.

  7. angela says:

    Public consultation definitely is needed Most of these buildings represent our history i.e. Benson Hall, the original Barker homestead, and Mt. Tabor. It is not just a matter of dollars and cents.

  8. Dennis Fox says:

    I am please to see that the sale of “publicly” owned properties has met with disapproval by our council. As so many councillors pointed out – there has not been any chance for the public to voice their opinions.

    What needs to be understood by council is that they are the “caretakers” of these properties – not the controller of them. These properties were bought and paid for by the public (in most cases years ago) and the decision to sell any of them should go to a referendum and not to be decided by one set of councillors serving perhaps only one term, at this time in the history of PEC. These properties are the County’s history – which is not for sale.

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