Town hall sticker shock

Bids for Gan project come in nearly $1M over bud­get

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - NEWS - WAYNE LOWRIE wlowrie@post­media.com

GANANOQUE – Town coun­cil mem­bers ex­pressed shock last week when bids to build an ad­di­tion to the his­toric town hall came in at al­most $1 mil­lion over bud­get.

Coun­cil had es­ti­mated it would cost $2.5 mil­lion to build the two-storey ad­di­tion and do ren­o­va­tions to the ex­ist­ing 186-year-old town hall, but the three bids came in at $3.4- to $3.68-mil­lion.

Coun­cil re­fused to ac­cept any of the bids. In­stead, it asked its ar­chi­tect to ne­go­ti­ate with the low­est bid­der, Cupido Con­struc­tion Ltd., to re­duce the price. +VG Ar­chi­tects was asked to re­port back to coun­cil with the re­sult of the ne­go­ti­a­tions at its Dec. 5 meet­ing.

“We were very, very dis­ap­pointed,” said Mayor Erica Dem­chuk in ref­er­ence to the bids.

Through­out the de­sign process, the town had stressed to the ar­chi­tect that it wanted a fru­gal build­ing but some­how +VG didn’t get the mes­sage, she said.

“We said right from the be­gin­ning that we didn’t want a Cadil­lac – we can’t af­ford it – we want a Chevy,” Dem­chuk said.

The town was look­ing for a mid­dle-of-the road build­ing, “not junk,” that would last the com­mu­nity for years, she said.

“We’re not the fed­eral or pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment – we can’t af­ford the Taj Ma­hal,” she said.

Dem­chuk and Coun­cil­lor Brian Brooks, also on the town hall build­ing com­mit­tee, stressed that the ex­ist­ing town hall needs ren­o­va­tions, re­gard­less of whether or not the town goes ahead with the ad­di­tion.

“Do­ing noth­ing is not an

op­tion,” Brooks said.

Both said the town hall needs im­me­di­ate work to shore up its leak­ing foun­da­tion and that pro­vin­cial ac­ces­si­bil­ity reg­u­la­tions re­quire ma­jor ren­o­va­tions by 2025.

Dem­chuk said she has asked the ar­chi­tect to do a break­down of the ten­der costs for the ren­o­va­tions and for the new ad­di­tion.

Brooks said there are ob­vi­ous ways the ar­chi­tect can work to get the cost down.

As an ex­am­ple, he noted the ar­chi­tect called for cop­per pipes in the ad­di­tion when plas­tic is a lot cheaper and just as good. The same thing is true for such fix­tures as toi­lets.

Dem­chuk said that the ten­der call in­cluded a re­quest for Toto Toi­lets, in­stead of Amer­i­can Stan­dard.

“If those are the things in the de­signer’s specs, no won­der the

to­tal is so high,” she said.

Coun­cil­lor Jan Hayes ques­tioned whether it is fair of the town to change the bid spec­i­fi­ca­tions but then ne­go­ti­ate only with the low­est bid­der, in­stead of all the com­pa­nies.

She noted that the bids were very sim­i­lar: Cupido came in at $3.4 mil­lion, ASCO Con­struc­tion at $3,452,000, and Brad­ford Con­struc­tion at $3,680,000.

Shellee Fournier, chief ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer, said the ten­der con­tract al­lows the town to ne­go­ti­ate with the low­est bid­der. If those talks are un­suc­cess­ful, the town would have to go back out to ten­der with the new spec­i­fi­ca­tions, she said.

The town’s ten­der called for a 9,106 square foot ad­di­tion to the ex­ist­ing 7,599 sq.ft. build­ing along with ren­o­va­tions to the old build­ing.

Coun­cil­lor Jeff Gir­ling, who

has op­posed the ad­di­tion in favour of the town us­ing ex­ist­ing build­ings in­stead, urged coun­cil to take the time to look at other op­tions.

While ne­go­ti­at­ing with the con­trac­tor, the town could also have a com­mit­tee ex­plore other ideas, Gir­ling said.

“I don’t want to sound like Jeffrey Downer here, but the fact is that this has come in at way more than we thought and this is one of those sit­u­a­tions where I fear we’re go­ing to have buyer re­morse,” Gir­ling said.

Coun­cil­lor Anne War­ren floated what she ad­mit­ted is an “ou­tra­geous” idea: What would be the cost of tear­ing down the 1831 town hall and build­ing a mod­ern build­ing, sim­i­lar in looks, in its place?

“I know: it’s ou­tra­geous, but what are we faced with go­ing down the road?” she asked.

Ev­ery­body in town loves the old town hall, War­ren con­ceded, but its foun­da­tion is crum­bling and it needs other ma­jor up­grades as well.

“We have to face re­al­ity some­day, and I think it would be a lot cheaper to just start from scratch,” she said.

Other coun­cil mem­bers quickly dis­missed the idea, with Dem­chuk not­ing that the town hall is pro­tected un­der her­itage laws.

Coun­cil held its meet­ing to de­cide the ten­ders at 3:30 p.m. on Fri­day. Al­though op­po­si­tion to the ad­di­tion has been grow­ing on so­cial me­dia, only two mem­bers of the pub­lic showed up to the meet­ing.

Gir­ling and Coun­cil­lor Dwayne Fletcher voted against rene­go­ti­at­ing the bid, while the rest of coun­cil was in favour.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO COUR­TESY OF THE TOWN OF GANANOQUE

An ar­chi­tect's draw­ing of the side view of town hall and the ad­di­tion. Bids for the work are 40 per cent more than es­ti­mated.

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