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Discussion on Picton Town Hall deferred

UPDATE JULY 25 – Council chambers were full Tuesday night – but just for the first eight minutes of the meeting.

Attendees witnessed council agree to defer two items of interest – the amended road users agreement with White Pines industrial wind project, and discussion on what to do with the Picton Town Hall – to the September 19 Committee of the Whole meeting to allow better opportunity for public comment and deputations.

Picton Town Hall

JULY 19 – Picton councillor Lenny Epstein is hosting a town hall on the Picton Town Hall – at the Town Hall Thursday night at 7 p.m.

He invites County residents to attend the open forum to discuss possible futures for the building, vacated in 2016 by its principle tenant – the fire department.

Lenny Epstein

“My hope is to bring people together to explore the best community uses for this valuable public asset and to gauge constituent support for keeping an affordable, multi-purpose public assembly hall in the downtown core of Picton,” said Epstein in his Facebook event invitation.

The building, at 2 Ross St., is to be examined by council as it completes an inventory of all vacant or unused municipal properties, determines current and future land needs, and the identifies parcels to sell and to promote economic development, reduce operating costs and provide additional revenue from land sales.

The Town Hall at 2 Ross Street is seen as a valuable asset given its location, heritage value and significant redevelopment potential. The upper level continues to house the Picton Town Hall, a public facility rented by various community groups.

A staff report recommends the building be listed for sale through a request for proposal, in addition to inviting alternative proposals for the property, so that council can consider all opportunities before choosing to retain or divest of the property.

In a presentation to council in 2014 regarding the financial impact of the proposed new Picton fire station it was noted that surplus stations could be re-purposed to create new economic drivers and provide new property tax revenues.
The agenda also provided a detailed financial projection which suggested proceeds from the sale of the Picton Fire Station specifically (estimated at $525,000) could reduce borrowing requirements for the new Picton Fire Station.

Expenses have increased significantly due to the relocation of the Picton Fire Station. Without fire department staff on-site to address regular building needs, additional hours were required resulting in higher costs for maintenance and wages, while costs for utilities that were previously held within the fire department were now carried by the hall.

There has been considerable interest in 2 Ross Street since it was announced that a new Picton Fire Station would be constructed. In addition to its residential or commercial redevelopment potential, there is also interest in having the municipality retain ownership to maintain the Town Hall operations while potentially allowing for not-for-profit, social enterprise or other community uses on the lower level. The idea of a community hub at this location has also been put forward.

Council has also been made aware of a proposal which would see the lower level re-purposed as a permanent farmers market, operated as a not-for-profit that supports local agriculture while helping to address food security and affordability issues.

The Picton Town Hall is utilized on a regular basis by a number of community groups. The hall is rented through annual bookings of $300 plus HST for the year (or the use of all halls for $350 +HST for the year). The remaining bookings are based on a per use basis ranging from $65+HST to $130+HST/day depending on the type of use.

Community groups who book the Picton Town Hall on an annual basis include:
– PE Bridge Club – five hrs each Wednesday (appx. 260 hrs/year)
– Picton Duplicate Bridge Club – five hrs each Monday (appx. 260 hrs/year)
– PEC Horticultural Society – 3 hrs 2x a month (appx. 72 hrs/year)
– PEC Pipes and Drums – 3.5 hrs each Thursday (appx. 182 hrs/year)
– PEC Scottish Country Dancers – five hrs each Friday (appx. 190 hrs/year)
– PEC Arts Council’s Art in Motion – four hrs each Tuesday (appx. 208 hrs/year)
– PE Agricultural Society – three hrs per month x nine months (appx. 27 hrs/year)

$350 +HST per year – community group users of ALL municipal Town Halls
– Tai Chi Association – 1.5 hrs 3 x per week (appx. 208 hrs/year)
– The Creative Collection – Varied bookings (appx. 144 hrs/year)
– Food Not Bombs – Varied bookings (appx. 196 hrs/year)
– The County Theatre Group – Varied (appx. 11.5 hrs/year)
– County Community Foundation – Varied (appx. 14.5 hrs/year)
– Kenzo Dozono Karate – 1 hr each Thurs. (appx. 52 hrs/year)
– PEC Soccer Association – Varied (appx. 12 hrs/year)

Alternative venues that could be utilized in the event of the sale of the building include were also provided to council for examination:

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  1. Emily says:

    Perhaps Marnie. But absolutely anything and everything should be looked at to reduce the wastewater debacle.

  2. Marnie says:

    Emily, this is not one of those times. Why not move the town offices now at The Edward Building to the old fire hall and stop paying rent? Lots of good ideas for this building and it should be kept.

  3. Emily says:

    Good points. But sometimes you need to sell off to cover debt rather than taking on more expense.

  4. Gary Mooney says:

    It can be argued that this is the most important of the town halls, because Picton is the most central location for meetings of interest to all County residents.

    If it’s important to hold a meeting that is most easily accessible to all (particularly important in the winter), Picton town hall is the obvious choice.

  5. Gary says:

    For clarification purposes, since the Picton Town Hall is owned by all the people, would the Wastewater Plant not also be owned by all the people? Since only Picton ratepayers pay for it would it not be reasonable to sell as many assets as possible to lower the unsustainable costs associated.

  6. Dennis Fox says:

    The Town Hall is owned by all the people – not just by those who live in Picton. Considering that the largest single demographic in PEC are seniors – was any consideration given to making the Town Hall into a seniors activity center? A place that offers recreation and fellowship for those interested – and open in the evenings throughout the year. Most communities have this kind of a facility run by the municipality and volunteers – why not here?

  7. Julian says:

    I recall a debate last election where the subject of surplus County buildings and properties came up. May be wrong but I believe the number was in the hundreds.

    It would be good to know what progress has been made re disposal of some of these so that much needed dollars can go to fixing roads, paying down long term debt on things like our water system.

    The County cannot hoard properties and in particular properties that are underutilized at 34% in 2016. That is like keeping a vintage car in the garage that gets driven on Sundays in fair weather, a real luxury.

    The numbers were crunched and factored into retiring debt on the new fire station whilst creating new tax revenue through the sale and ownership of this building. Mr. Epstein will have to make a business case to justify his position to this voter.

  8. H. Campbell says:

    Bravo to Lenny Epstein for his initiative and consideration of the needs of the Town & residents.

  9. H. Campbell says:

    The Municipality & Council is letting us (the County residents) down if they sell the Picton Town Hall.
    This downtown location makes it central for all manner of community uses and must be retained for that. I cannot fathom that there is even a consideration about a sale, and as we all know the amount of revenue from that sale will simply be a drop in the bucket, so that cannot be a valid financial reason for selling.

    In the past, Council has been too quick in disposing of buildings which could have functional & community uses; and haste makes waste. It’s time to see value in buildings, besides the quick and measly dollar!

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