Sunday, April 18, 2021

New Library Cost Ratepayers Less Than You Might Think

If your aging house was crumbling, and leaky, and your grandmother could no longer access all of the floors due to difficulty on the stairs, and you were told that you could build a brand new home, all on one floor, with updated modern amenities, and that you could make that purchase for half the actual cost, I would assume you would jump at the opportunity. That is essentially the case with Meaford’s new library.

The final price tag for Meaford’s new library, as reported to Council on Monday, March 22, is $7,147,777. An enormous amount of money to be sure, but many don’t realize that the actual cost to Meaford’s ratepayers is roughly half that amount.

There are many funding sources for the new library, and Meaford ratepayers are but one. Development charges levied against new developments in the municipality will pay for roughly $1.3 million of the total cost for the new facility.

At Council’s direction to staff, the proceeds from the sale of the formerly municipally owned building at 390 Sykes Street went directly to the library project, knocking some $950,000 off the required funding. Additionally, Council has directed staff to sell the former library building with the proceeds to go directly to funding the library project. Though the building has yet to be appraised, if we assume a conservative half million dollars, along with the development charges, and the previous sale of 390 Sykes Street, $2.75 million of the project is funded from sources other than Meaford ratepayers, leaving roughly $4.4 million.

Even to be able to construct a new $7.15 million library at a cost to ratepayers of just $4.4 million is a great deal, but it gets better. The library fundraising committee set an initial goal of raising $750,000 toward the project. They exceeded their goal, and as of this week are fast approaching $900,000 in funds raised, reducing the impact on Meaford’s ratepayers to roughly $3.5 million.

By anyone’s standard, I think a $7 million library for a cost to ratepayers of just $3.5 million is a heck of a deal, and all should be commended, from the fundraising committee to municipal staff for finding as many funding sources as possible aside from the ratepayer.

Does any of this mean our new library is perfect? I have written a time or two that I will forever think that Council made a poor decision on the location. It seems a shame to me that we purchased arguably the most prime commercial property in town to use for a municipal building, forever kissing goodbye the potential for new jobs, not to mention property taxes. Many disagree with me, and I accept that, but it will never sit right with me.

That said, the new library has opened to rave reviews from all I have spoken to, and the new facility is a massive improvement over the former location, particularly given that the building is fully accessible to all, something that could not be accomplished at the former location.

Not only was a significant amount of the project funded from sources other than the municipal ratepayer, $2 million in ratepayer supported debt on a $7 million project is an achievement to be sure.

Over the past several years I have heard many express frustration at the cost of the new library, and understandably so. $7 million is a lot of money, more than most of us can fathom, but the new library is also a very long term investment. The new facility should serve this community for the next half century if not more, and it will outlive virtually all current ratepayers. If the new building serves us for 50 years, that works out to roughly $150,000 (approximately $75,000 ratepayer supported) per year for a fully accessible, modern library facility, and that seems more than reasonable in the long term.

It has been a long road to the realization of a new library in this community, and though nobody is ever thrilled at having to spend millions of dollars on any project, it was badly needed. The project came in on budget, it was completed in a reasonable period of time, and we won’t have to be concerned about major library facility costs for decades to come.

A tip of the hat to the library fundraising committee and all who contributed, as it eased the burden on the ratepayers, and helped make the final numbers easier to digest.

Popular this week

Latest news