Watch the pennies
Council sidesteps opportunity to save $2,550
The Ameliasburgh Town Hall needs a new roof. Strong winds in March pulled up eight sections of the existingmetal roof—a roof installed perhaps 25 or upto 35 years ago—estimated by the County’s property staff, part of the Recreation, Parks and Culture department.
Staff recommends replacing the roof with steel at a cost of $17,100 plus $3,800 spent already to shore up the existing roof, as wellas an additional $1,500 contingency amount for unexpected costs. Alternatively they suggest 40-year asphalt shingles could be used, saving the municipality $2,550.
“How long does a steel roof last?” asked Janice Maynard, councillor for Ameliasburgh, seeking to understand the value that might be gained by spending more for the steel roof option.
“I don’t have the quotes with me,” said Barry Braun, commissioner of the department—whose attendance was required for precisely two items on the committee agenda last Thursday. (The second item, a lease agreement for the boat launch in Wellington harbour, was ratified without a question asked.) “Generally steel lasts longer,” offer the commissioner.
Without a clear measure of the benefit the municipality and the hall might gain, Athol Councillor Jamie Forrester urged fellow committee members to choose the lower cost asphalt roof.
“We should be trying to save money wherever we can,” said Forrester.
But Forrester found little support. Despite the fact that council was entering its third round of budget deliberations on Monday staring at a 13.3 per cent increase to its tax levy, there was little desire to scrimp on the roof of the Ameliasburgh Town Hall.
Ameliasburgh Councillor Dianne O’Brien explained that a working group of volunteers had raised $40,000 for repairs and renovations to improve the facility. She said this group preferred the steel roof selection and would consider raising additional funds to supplement the roof replacement budget.
Forrester suggested the committee might approve the lower amount for asphalt shingles and turn to the working group to fund the balance ($2,550) needed for the steel roof. While O’Brien suggested this might work, most members of the committee of council wanted the steel roof, despite the cost. And despite the lack of hard information about the comparable benefit of the options.
The former church was built more than 135 years ago in the village perched on the escarpment, affording a majestice view of the farmland below stretching to the Bay of Quinte. In recent times the building was converted to serve as a town hall, in recent weeks hosting energetic and well-attended meetings with residents on matters ranging from the municipal budget to the prospect of an Internet tower being erected nearby.
Though the property is a protected heritage resource, the roof is not an identified feature of its historical value and as such not subject to review by the County’s Heritage Advisory Committee. Nevertheless Brian Marisett, councillor for Picton, asked the commissioner to do a bit more digging to determine the original roofing material.
Just last month council rejected a staff suggestion that it review the use and performance of the County’s aging town halls with a view to disposing of those that did meet certain thresholds of community usage. CAO Merlin Dewing warned that upkeep of these facilities would soon drain the County’s dwindling reserves and become an increasing burden upon ratepayers.
The message appears to have gone unheeded. In its first opportunity to take a modestly more frugal path since that wake-up call—council, instead, chose to spend more, rather than less.