Monday, February 26, 2024

Thoughts on the New Library From the West End

Dear Editor,

Given the hysteria and euphoria by some surrounding the news of a new library and possible refurbishment of the old library into a new council and staff office area with its exorbitant cost, it may be time to see this extravagance for what it really is. Another boondoggle!

In defending this choice of library, staff in a recent newsletter now depict the new library as not only a purveyor of books, articles, and dvds, but it will also serve as a community hub for our municipality.

Unless I am mistaken we already have a multitude of facilities in the East End of our municipality that already serve as social hubs –Meaford Hall, Riverside Hall, the Recreation Centre, Bognor Hall, the curling rink, and a half a dozen churches. How many places do you need to hold meet and greets?

They also go on to state that a need in one community needs to be paid by everyone in the municipality whether certain people use it or not. They actually use an example of repairing a bridge in Sydenham which is a safety issue and go on to say that probably no one from the east end will use it but need to pay for it. A safety issue expense and an exorbitant costly library are not comparable.

They also use the fact that other communities, some 30-100x our population base and undergoing high growth such as Toronto and Vaughan, have spent $ on new libraries so why can’t we? (Maybe we cannot afford this potential $8.5 million boondoggle).

Furthermore they say that it was not a hasty decision since they have been looking since 2014. The Foodland building only became vacant in August 2016. The mayor was touting the site for the new library in September 2017 and did not know any of the costs. Within 20-30 days the site was under a purchase and sale agreement and the staff did not get an independent appraisal to validate the purchase price nor knew the all-in costs of the facility. Yes they were looking for a new library since 2014 but the location chosen was rushed with little due diligence being done.

The final reason for this lavish facility is the icing on the cake. They say a new library will attract families and people. This is totally false, as economists will tell you over and over again: what attracts families to an area is the ability to find decent well-paying jobs. Unfortunately Meaford is sadly lacking in corporate and commercial growth and has negative population growth at present as per the latest census. With these arguments presented recently you can see that they are having a very hard time defending the indefensible! Talk about Fake News.

Well here is the “Next Big thing”, to quote our mayor, and should be a topic for the upcoming election since you had a recent editorial requesting some ideas. Also in our staff’s recent variance report to council they say the proposed $51,000 to be spent on Woodford Hall last year has been postponed subject to coming up with a Strategic Plan. Well here is a plan that I am sure will get everyone’s support.

The Friends of Woodford Hall and the eight rural communities in the West End have put together a working group to come up with a replacement facility for the non-compliant Woodford Hall. Cost is not to be a factor as it is needed and wanted by the folks in the west end. Since the present facility is non-compliant, dated, and there is no building at present that can accommodate the current needs of the residents in the west end from a social and cultural point of view it is our request that this project be part of the debate in the 2018 election.

Preliminary estimates are that it will cost about $3.1 million ($785 per the 4,000 west end residents) and will have the latest in modern communications and a state of the art banquet hall. This cost per capita is similar to the cost of the new library for the town and St Vincent ($5,500,000 for the 7,000 residents ) – $785 per capita.

The new Woodford Hall would have multiple computer stations with high speed internet. Our farming sector would have access to the latest technology to forecast weather patterns to improve planting, fertilizing, and reaping schedules. There would be a real time Commodities Pricing Board depicting up to date prices for all types of grains, corn, and other cash crops. It would also include real time price feeds for livestock, eggs, and poultry. Local fishermen would use these computers to chart lunar cycles and improve their fishing odds. It would also house a 3-D printer to machine parts for older farm machinery that cannot be found elsewhere. It would be a Creation Centre.

As a community and social hub the kitchen would be fully equipped and there would be a large hall with the latest in audio and video equipment for weddings, anniversaries, funerals or celebrations of life, and parties. We also require on-site staff to co-ordinate the scheduling for these events plus all normal social activities such as quilting, card games, and seminars on rural living and the latest farming techniques and practices. Yearly operating costs have yet to be determined but no worry, the project is needed due to the non-compliance of the existing old facility and will be the centre of the west end’s social and cultural activities.

The beauty of this proposal to west end residents is that though people from the town and St. Vincent can use this facility, they probably won’t because they will have a multitude of social hubs in the east end of the municipality once the new library is built, but here is the good part – the folks of St. Vincent and the town will pay the lion’s share of the costs of our lavish but needed facility. The Friends of Woodford Hall and local people in support of this wonderful project will raise 15% of the initial cost from their own resources to assist in the cost of the new building indicating that we are totally committed to this project. This new facility is long overdue and has the overwhelming support of 4,000 people in the West End.

Since we are one community I am sure that our east end neighbours have no qualms about paying the lion’s share of the capital and ongoing operating costs whatever they will be.

Please indicate your support of this wonderful project for your West End neighbours by e-mailing our present and ‘wanna be’ councillors running in the fall election to support this project in the upcoming 2019 budget. By the way, despite the pressing need, we are giving you an opportunity to have your say prior to committing to such a somewhat lavish expenditure, something that was not done with the new library.

Oh what’s that? I fear support from you and the councillors is negative to lukewarm at best. I wonder why?

I want to apologize to my neighbours and the Friends of Woodford Hall for even suggesting that we would be in support of such a wasteful expenditure even though it would be ‘nice to have’. We have a hard time justifying this project given the pending $80-$100M roads and bridge reconstruction program that we are facing in the coming years and an already excessively high tax rate. The burden of an expensive project like this although very worthy at this time would be too much for our small municipality and especially to our neighbours in the East who would have to pay for it.

Unfortunately I cannot say the same about some of our Eastern neighbours and the present council given the recent approval of the extravagant new library at $5,500,000 and the proposed future revamp of the old library into new council chambers and staff offices to the tune of probably $2,000,000-$3,000,000. To sanction such an extravagant project when there were cheaper alternatives is a disservice to all taxpayers and definitely will be remembered come election time.

Barry Vallier, Annan

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