I daresay Hudson residents are thoroughly fed up hearing about that $555,000 loan bylaw for Community Centre renovations.
Because Tuesday’s register failed to gather enough signatures to force a referendum or withdrawal of the bylaw, this administration can move forward with the project on the vow that if it doesn’t get a federal Canada 150 infrastructure grant to cover half the cost, it won’t dip into the loan money.
But I think taxpayers should know the new Legion curling rink roof is suddenly no longer covered.
The following was published in today’s Local Journal:
According to Corriveau [Simon Corriveau is the town’s new temporary full-time co-ordinator of grants and certifications] there are items in the renovation project […] that the grant will not cover.
”The roof over the curling rink is the only portion not included,” said Corriveau. “The rest of the building is used by other groups as well as the Legion,” he added, clarifying that because the ice sheet is used for a sport, it would be covered by another type of grant. “We are hoping for a response by the beginning of May,” Corriveau concluded.
I asked the town’s director-general Jean-Pierre Roy why the town has not been specific about how it proposes to spend up to $555,000. He said the decision was to keep the renovation details deliberately vague so that the grant application wouldn’t risk disqualification.
Essentially, Tuesday’s failed register writes this administration a blank cheque for $555,000. This is fact, not Jim Duff’s opinion.
Bylaw 687 makes no reference to federal grants, matching funds or what is and isn’t eligible. All it says is that taxpayers are on the hook for the next 20 years. If you want to read it, it’s posted on the Town Hall bulletin board.
Curious taxpayers will find the administration’s to-do list on the town website. They should know this post has no legal status and isn’t binding on the current council, except perhaps ethically. This is the only public document where ‘roof’ is mentioned.
We would like to make the necessary repairs to the building such as replacing the roofing, electrical connections and upgrading the kitchen facilities. Also, since the community centre was designated as a place of refuge for emergency measures on February 25, 2016, some of the building’s mechanical components such as air conditioning, heating, lighting and sanitary installations must be redone. This will allow us to replace old energy-consuming equipment that uses a lot of water with newer installations that consume less, thereby saving us money. In addition, the windows must be changed as traces of water infiltration have been detected and several of them do not lock. Lock mechanisms and door locks must all be changed in order to ensure the safety of the users. In some areas, the floor is quite worn and it is possible to see the underlying concrete. We also want to redo the exterior parking lot and its lighting, build a bike stop for cyclists and set up an access ramp for people with reduced mobility to give them access to the youth centre. It is also planned to expand the kitchen and build small meeting rooms to allow community groups to meet.
Why an umbrella bylaw?
This type of bylaw allows us to make various expenses (plans and specifications, repairs, additions, etc.) without limiting our options. As the Town must act quickly to complete the work before the end of the year and needs some flexibility, the decision was made to proceed with an umbrella bylaw. To carry out this multifaceted project, the Town will have to commission an architectural and engineering firm to evaluate the scope and costs of the work to be done. Only once the estimate has been produced will we be able to make judicious and informed choices regarding the project priorities in order to ensure that we respect the allocated budget.
The town’s post notes the work must be completed by Dec. 31 in order to qualify for federal funding.
Many interpret the results of Tuesday’s register as the end of the process and act as if it’s a victory. In fact it’s neither. It’s public recognition of the need to maintain an important component of Hudson’s public life, yes. But the same hard questioning that marked the process of adopting the bylaw must continue into the evaluation and renovation processes.
Why am I so suspicious? Some years back, I got a call from a former Hudson councillor. He told me how, during the original construction of the Community Centre, the council of that time quietly voted to transfer $150,000 earmarked for lighting and other improvements in St. Thomas Park to the Community Centre, which was running over budget.
I asked him why, after all that time, he was calling me with this. “I thought you should know how it works,” he said.
As I posted last week (Plan B), we know the town already has a $160,000 contingency plan to fund the new roof and kitchen upgrades in the event the grant application is rejected. I assume this is what will happen if there’s suddenly no federal cash for a curling rink roof.
This morning Maître Roy and I spent 45 minutes discussing the difference between fact and opinion (This will be a topic for another post). I will hereafter do my best to separate the two and alert readers before I shift from one to another.
The following is my opinion:
The price of democracy is eternal vigilance. Tuesday’s passage of the loan bylaw doesn’t change that responsibility. If anything, it makes it an imperative.