South Bruce Peninsula is looking at undertaking two studies this year on the feasibility of building an aquatic centre and a new town hall, says the municipality’s mayor.
Janice Jackson said the plan, which still requires final budget approval Feb. 5, is to conduct both studies around the same time since the results of one could impact the other project.
“There’s many pieces to the puzzle. If we go forward with an aquatic centre, it may make sense to build an aquatic centre and then perhaps down the road build a town hall attached to it,” she said in a recent interview.
“There’s a lot of different options that we can certainly consider, but we’re getting all the information that we can in order to look at the viability of any of those options.”
The town has set aside $10,000 in its draft 2019 capital budget for the town hall feasibility study.
Another $25,000 is earmarked in the proposed spending plan to retain a consultant to help the town develop a five-year recreational master plan. Jackson said the aquatic centre feasibility study will be a component of the master plan.
“To the community, obviously the aquatic centre is more important than a town hall. Clearly, town halls aren’t top of mind for the community,” Jackson said.
“It certainly makes it challenging for our employees to navigate a building that is as broken up and challenged as our current town hall is and for the community to come in and access it is sometimes challenging.
“But the aquatic study, I think, is definitely first and foremost and so that feasibility study will be started in the next few months.”
South Bruce Peninsula’s current town hall in Wiarton was built in 1967-68 for $170,600 after the former municipal building was destroyed by fire on Jan. 19, 1967.
The half-century-old, 10,000-square-foot building is too small and there’s no room for storage.
“We’re totally running out of space in our current town hall,” Jackson said.
The municipality recently moved its community services department – which comprises about half of the town hall staff – to vacant offices at the Ross Whicher Centre a couple blocks away as an “interim solution.” The department includes economic development, bylaw and parks and recreation staff.
The current town hall is also inefficient, is not an ideal layout for people with accessibility issues and requires significant capital improvements, Jackson said.
“We did structural assessments for this town hall and we’re facing just over $200,000 in roof repairs. In the report, which is several years old, it also stated that we’re losing somewhere around $50,000 annually in lost heat and air conditioning.”
The study will look at things like the potential cost and impact on the town’s budget of constructing a new building to house its municipal offices and council chambers.
The aquatic centre feasibility study, meanwhile, will examine topics such as the cost to build the facility, options for the centre, potential partners, grant opportunities and user fees as well as projected operating and maintenance costs and how the municipality could offset those expenses.
“The aquatic centre was probably one of the most talked-about issues that I faced and the same as several of our councillors during the election campaign,” Jackson said.
“The people of Wiarton and Sauble Beach in particular were very vocal about wanting to have an indoor swimming pool. They would prefer not to have to make the drive into Owen Sound.”
It will take about six months to conduct the aquatic centre feasibility study, she said, and, if council believes building the facility is in the town’s best interest, the public will be consulted on the project.