|Back to Home||Feature Article - June 14, 2012|
North Frontenac Councilby Jeff Green
Sticker shock puts Ompah build on life support
With most, but not all of the costs for the fire station portion of a proposed fire station/ambulance base at Ompah factored in, that is what North Frontenac ratepayers will be saddled with paying if North Frontenac Council gives the go-ahead.
The project is being planned in conjunction with Frontenac County, which is responsible for the ambulance base portion. The base is slated to cost the county $380,085.
The total cost of the project sits at just over $1.14 million, and under an agreement the two parties will split costs according to the square footage of the portion of the building they will use. The ambulance portion is 1,500 square feet and the fire hall portion is 2,750 square feet and the township is thus committed to covering 65% of the overall cost of the construction.
North Frontenac Council has made a financial commitment of $550,000 for the project, and that includes borrowing $150,000 from township reserve funds as well as a $50,000 contribution from fundraising efforts by the Ompah firefighters themselves.
Frontenac County staff have been managing the project, and a project manager was hired to oversee everything from the request for proposal process through to final construction.
Four bids were received for the project, and a panel that included Fire Chief Steve Riddell and Chief Building Official George Gorrie from North Frontenac selected the second lowest one, from TaskForce Construction for $963,600.
The TaskForce bid was the easy winner on overall points, having a much higher ranking for the building design than the lowest bidder Bel-Con, whose bid came in at $918,880.
The overall cost swells to $1.14 million when project management ($59,972) and 5% contingency ($48,180) and other minor costs are added in.
And the $1.14 million price does not include hydro hook up or telecommunications infrastructure costs or the cost of the environmental assessment that is currently underway.
Cognisant of the fact that the bids were all well above the budget for the project, the Project Manager Patrick Thompson proposed a couple of scenarios that would lower costs.
These include cutting down the size of the building by 400 square feet, which would save North Frontenac about $39,000, and cutting the fire hall portion of the building to 2,500 square feet and the ambulance base to 1360 square feet.
A second possibility would be to eliminate all of the features of the building that are tied to living up to the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards. This would save $115,000 on the project as a whole and $69,000 for North Frontenac.
Building to LEED standards is a requirement that Frontenac County Council has endorsed for all building projects it undertakes. It is a commitment County Council made as part of its Integrated Community Sustainability Plan several years ago.
In her report to North Frontenac Council, township CAO Cheryl Robson put forward a scenario that incorporated the cuts that Patrick Thompson had put forward. She came to a proposed cost for the township of $604,543, which is only $54,543 over the $550,000 threshold that North Frontenac Council had approved.
“The county is not going to drop LEED,” said Councilor Wayne Good.
“I have no idea whether we can convince County Council to drop the LEED requirements,” said Mayor Clayton, “but if we go to the next county meeting and ask for that, at least we are moving the project forward. Or we could stop the project today.”
“My recommendation is that we stick with LEED; it brings lower maintenance costs in the long run. And we look at the $724,000 number and go with it or dump it,” said Councilor John Inglis.
“It’s hard to know what I can recommend,” said Cheryl Robson. “This information only came to us on Friday. County staff have not had a chance to look at it either.”
A motion was proposed that would have had North Frontenac Council ask Frontenac County Council to drop the LEED requirements for the new building and to have the county direct Patrick Thompson, and Chief of Paramedic Services Paul Charbonneau to attend the North Frontenac Council meeting on June 25 to talk about next steps for the project.
In a recorded vote, the motion was defeated. Mayor Clayton, and Councilors Hunter and Inglis (both of Palmerston ward) voted in favour, and Deputy Mayor Perry and Councilors Martin, Watkins, and Good voted against.
No one knew what to do next.
“Personally, I would like to wait a couple of weeks before killing it,” said John Inglis.
“We fought for years to get the ambulance service we have,” said Betty Hunter. “Because we are worrying so much about the fire hall, we are looking at losing the ambulance service.”
In the end council made a non-decision. They simply received the cost estimate report from Patrick Thompson for information.
When Frontenac County Council meets on June 20, the report will be included in the agenda package. Frontenac County Council has given their staff the go-ahead to proceed with the project, but it cannot proceed until North Frontenac Council gives its approval.
That could happen on June 25, but where four votes will come from on North Frontenac Council for a $734,443 fire hall in Ompah is anyone’s guess.
Gallivan makes County Official Plan road trip.
"I’ve been everywhere man, I’ve been everywhere, crossed the desert spare man, I’ve breathed the mountain air man, travel I’ve had my share man, I’ve been everywhere".
Joe Gallivan wasn’t quite singing this old Hank Snow tune this week, and I can safely say from my own considerable experience that attending council meetings does not bring quite the same amount of exhilaration as spare deserts, mountain air, or Winslow or Wichita for that matter.
Still, Mr. Gallivan traveled up to Harlowe on Monday to North Frontenac Council, headed to Sharbot Lake on Tuesday afternoon for Central Frontenac and ended his day in Sydenham at a South Frontenac meeting.
The reason? He was bringing a document that will form the basis for a Frontenac County Official Plan and he wanted to make sure that local councils were comfortable with the idea of a county-wide Official Plan as a complement to the already existing plans they all have in place.
“It should be the intention of a County Plan to set the context for planning in the county as a whole and to help provide direction for regional planning issues. It will not be the intention of a County Plan to interfere with those planning matters that are considered to be the responsibility of the townships,” Gallivan wrote in the document he presented to each of the councils.
One of the main arguments in favour of a County Official Plan is that once it is in place, township Official Plans will no longer require approval from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
Currently, North, Central and South Frontenac are in the midst of five-year renewal processes for their own Official Plans and in all three cases the ministry and the townships are at a standstill over the issue of whether new building lots can be created on private lanes.
While Gallivan said the private lane development issue will not be solved by a County Plan since it is already front and centre in the current stalemate between the townships and the ministry, but “once a County Plan is approved by the province, the county becomes the approval authority for its constituent municipalities … this is a significant step forward for Frontenac County as it will allow for planning decisions to be made locally with a clear understanding of the impacts of the decisions on the rural landscape of the Frontenacs.”
Gallivan asked the advice of each council he met with about the timing of public meetings, which are being set up in August.
While there was a polite reception to his basic document from the council members, a couple of members of North Frontenac Council made reference to the fact that there is a lack of trust between the township and the county. The way the county's integrated sustainability plan has been implemented has been the source of some of that mistrust, making them nervous about the impact of a County Official Plan.
“I can say this,” Gallivan said, “at least at the county you have two representatives at the table. With the Ministry of Municipal Affairs you have no say whatsoever. I know this because I used to work at the ministry myself.
The Frontenac County Official Plan is slated for completion in early 2014 for submission to the province, before the end of the current term of council.
For information, go to Frontenaccounty.ca and click on the Official Plan icon on the lower right hand side of the page.