The hunt for a location for a new library continues, and Meaford's council has given approval for staff to explore the potential for the former Foodland grocery store location on Sykes Street as a home for the library.
At their June 26 meeting council was told that the cost to complete a facility condition assessment along with the preparation of design options and cost analysis will be $32,500.
Meaford Treasurer Darcy Chapman made a presentation to council in which he outlined some of the possibilities along with the challenges to be faced regarding the Foodland property which has been empty since the grocery store closed last summer.
“I know there's been a lot of talk in the community about Foodland. I have stood up in front of council and said that we've looked at Foodland and it wasn't a viable option,” Chapman told council. “And at the time back in October it wasn't a viable option because the owner at that time was looking at either selling for a significant amount of money, or a 10 year lease. Since then we've had discussions with the owner, and in fact there may be an opportunity where the Foodland building is feasible for us."
Chapman said that municipal staff have had discussions with the property owner in order to determine the feasibility of the site for a library.
“Based on discussion with the owner, the Municipality would be required to enter into a 10 year lease of the facility. The landlord would refresh the building to a new again look, installing new flooring, new ceiling and new lighting to municipal specifications. Painting the existing canopy and fascia along with coating and relining the parking lot would also occur,” Chapman noted in his report to council. “The landlord would cover the cost of all trenching for electrical, phone and network/data connections and would be willing to negotiate on costs pertaining to interior partition construction, additional exterior windows, etc. The landlord would be responsible for the roof only. All other costs, including equipment, signage, taxes, insurance, etc. would be paid for by the tenant. This triple net lease would also include a fixed price purchase at the end of the 10 years for the Municipality to then acquire the building and land. This would be structured much like a lease-to-own however due to the magnitude of the renovation costs, the lease costs would not be credited in any way towards the purchase price.”
Chapman said that if the facility condition assessment suggests the building is in good condition, and if a deal with the property owner can be reached, the total cost could prove to be favourable when compared to the estimated cost for converting the municipally owned building at 390 Sykes Street which currently houses the OPP detachment as well as an insurance office.
He cautioned council however that there are still many unknowns, and he hopes that the facility condition assessment by the consultant will provide some clarity, and that a favourable deal could be reached with the property owner.
“Given renovations at the other site reviewed are more than $1 million, staff are uncertain if the landlord would be willing to fund all (or even a majority) of these costs. A full facility condition assessment (FCA) and design brief proposed at a cost of $32,500 by LGA would allow costing estimates to be developed similar to that done for 390 Sykes and the Trowbridge locations which would provide a better understanding of scope/price for the Municipality to negotiate,” Chapman told council.
Another potential benefit should the former Foodland location become the future home for the library suggested Chapman, is that the property at 390 Sykes Street could be sold.
Chapman told council that while a lease rate has not been formally negotiated, he estimated that the average annual cost would be roughly $120,000, for a total of $1.22 million over 10 years. At the end of the 10 years the municipality would be able to purchase the property. Chapman estimated the purchase price would be $1.5 million.
“When combining the lease and purchase options at $2.6M, the underlying issue of leasehold improvements and long term building rehabilitation needs may make this option the most feasible from a financial perspective. The only real way to complete an adequate analysis would be to work through the FCA and design process with the property owner to then develop the full cost in relation to the other options already reviewed,” noted Chapman.
Members of council were cautiously optimistic about the plan to explore the property as a potential library location.
“From the perspective of the patrons of the library, that location would be a superior location to any other that we've considered,” offered Councillor Mike Poetker who is also the chair of the library board. “My bigger concern is that we don't know anything about the building technically at this point. But from the perspective of due diligence, we're asking again to go back to reserve funds or taxpayers to have a look at another building, and I think if you polled (library) users they would say it's worth looking at to determine if it's a good location or it's not a good location, and if you don't do it then you're never going to know the answer.”
Councillor Steven Bartley who has made no secret during his time on council of his dislike for spending taxpayer money on consultants, supported the plan to spend the $32,500 for the facility condition analysis.
“Everybody in the room knows how much I hate paying engineers money, but ever since the Deputy Mayor many months ago brought this building forward and was chastised for it at the time, all I've heard is Foodland, Foodland. I think this is far too important to let slide, and I do believe that we have to pay for this engineering study on this building just so that 10 years form now we don't look back and say maybe we should have,” suggested Bartley.
Chapman told council that the facility condition assessment at preliminary design options should be completed in approximately 10 weeks.