City Council Preview – What’s on the Agenda for the October 7 Meeting?

In a special Wednesday meeting, council will tackle not just one, but two of the biggest infrastructure projects being undertaken by the City of Guelph in the next few years. If you’re interested in either the new main library, or the proposed rec centre in the south end, you will definitely want to mark this date on your calendar.

NOTE #1: Delegates will be able to appear at this meeting via telephone, but you do have to register with the clerks office before 10 am on October 2. You can also submit written delegations and correspondences for agenda items.

NOTE #2: The meeting will be closed to the public, though it will be live-streamed on the City of Guelph’s website here.

NOTE #3: These reports will first be heard at Committee of the Whole on Monday October 5. Per the clerk’s office, this meeting will serve as the final ratification of the recommendations on these two files instead of waiting until the regular council meeting at the end of the month. Mayor Cam Guthrie and the executive team agreed to move up final approval of these projects because of the budget implications, a debate that’s also set to begin at the end of October.

NOTE #4: Whether you want to delegate to Committee, this meeting, or both, the deadline is the same (see above).

South End Community Centre Project Update – It’s full speed ahead for the South End Community Centre, which, if approved, will be included in the 2022 Capital Budget so that construction can begin that year.

The budget for this $80 million project will be covered 85 per cent by development charges (DCs), and with an additional $11.2 million from tax supported revenues. There will also be a $2.4 million impact on the operating budget once the community centre opens, and staff is asking council to endorse the recommendation that the cost be phased in over three years between 2021 and 2024.

Observers will note that this project now costs $12 million more than previously budgeted. The new budget is based on an additional $6.5 million in net zero initiatives and renewable energy infrastructure, an additional $1 million for the final equipment and I.T. costs, $1.7 million for finalized design details, $400,000 for public art, and about $2.4 million for inflated costs since the plan for the project was originally conceived. Staff were also forced to consider the long-term impacts of COVID-19 in the final design of the project as well.

The proposed community centre will be 165,000 square feet, or the size of an NFL football field, and it will be situated on Clair Road between the Emergency Centre and Bishop MacDonnell School. The facility will feature a twin pad arena, an aquatic complex with a 25-metre pool, a double gymnasium, multi-use program and meeting spaces, an indoor walkway, and a warm-up area where people can stretch and jog.

The tender for this project will be released in fall 2021, and the bid is expected to be awarded sometime in winter 2022. Construction will begin in spring 2022, and if all goes according to plan the ribbon will be cut in Fall 2024. Expected impacts of construction will include the temporary reduction of parking at Bishop Mac, and the closure of the South End Community Park for 2022 and 2023.

Baker District Project UpdateAs promised, we’ve received the alternative vision for the Baker District, and the updated plan to build the new main Guelph Public Library. As previously reported, the new library will now be a standalone building on the south end of the site along Chapel Lane. According to the staff report, this will simplify the legal agreements, lower construction costs, provide more flexibility, and will allow better control on operating costs and expenditures on the project.

With those efficiencies, the cost of the library is now $62 million, which is a difference of $5 million from the $67.1 million approved at council last year. The size of the library will remain at the 88,000 square feet that was previously approved; 40,000 square feet to match the current floor space and bring it up to current accessibility standards, plus an additional 40,000 for expanded services and growth. The additional operating cost of the library has been pegged at $3.5 million, and staff will ask council to direct them to phase in the cost over three years from 2021 to 2024 as part of the upcoming budget process.

The capital cost of the entire Baker District Redevelopment has also changed. The original estimated capital cost for the City was between $106.9 and $116.9 million, but it’s now between $84.3 and $89.3 million, which saves anywhere from $17.6 and $32.6 million. The financial viability of the project is still a concern as the City has no additional debt capacity, and there’s been concern stated about putting too much a burden on the taxpayer. There’s also the fact the project has yet to confirm an institutional partner, whose space will now be placed in the north block building, and thus buy more time to find a partner.

Staff is asking council to approve $16.6 million from the 2021 capital budget to do site servicing, and environmental and archeological remediation for the Baker District. Construction could begin sometime in 2022.

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