|Back to Home||Editorial - July 5, 2012|
Silence on the Ompah ambulance post/fire hall frontEditorial by Jeff Green
Back in the fall of 2010, North Frontenac Council thought it would cost about $80 per square foot to build a fire hall/ambulance post in Ompah. Frontenac County staff disagreed. By hiring project management, and building to LEED (Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design) standards, a policy that has been adopted by Frontenac County as part of its sustainability initiative, they put the price at $200 per square foot once all the costs were in.
It took a year to sort the whole thing out, but in the end it is fair to say that the county's view prevailed. With Frontenac County having committed $300,000 for a 1,500 square foot space, and North Frontenac committing up to $550,000 for a 2,750 square foot fire hall, the project got underway last November.
The price came in at $1.14 million, $257 per square foot for a building that is meant to house an ambulance and some fire equipment, and provide a basic resting spot for two paramedics for up to 10 hours a day, and a meeting room for the periodic use of firefighters. Effectively it is a building with two garages and some basic amenities, but that is what the preferred bid has come in at.
In response to that pricing, there has been a resounding silence from both Frontenac County and North Frontenac. Both councils received a report that outlines the costs, including proposals about how to mitigate some of the costs by cutting out $115,000 in LEED-related costs and making the building smaller.
The impact would be to cut the cost for the North Frontenac share of the project from $734,000 to just over $600,000.
But when it came time to send a request to Frontenac County Council to cut out the LEED costs and make the project more affordable, the votes were simply not there on North Frontenac Council.
Four members of the seven-member council are simply not willing to spend any more than $550,000 on the project, and there is no scenario on the table now that can bring the cost back to $550,000.
It's as simple as that.
The official reason why nothing has happened since this stark reality was revealed in early June is that an environmental assessment is still pending. But that assessment, which was seen as a hurdle that had to be overcome quickly before the costing for the project was revealed, has now become nothing more than a convenient excuse to delay the inevitable final decision to kill the project that North Frontenac Council will be facing.
When North Frontenac Council decided not to even ask Frontenac County Council to provide some relief, they lost their best opportunity to rid themselves of the political responsibility for killing the project. They did not do so out of fear of county council; they did so out of fear that their pleas would be heard and they would have to spend $50,000 more on the project. What that vote demonstrated was that the current North Frontenac Council is not really behind this project, which was initially championed by the previous council.
In the first place, the Ompah location was the second choice of the previous Frontenac county council for a northern ambulance base, and it has less than fulsome support on the current county council, so to say the project is on shaky ground with this current pricing would be more than understating the reality.
For the paramedic service, the likeliest scenario will be a return to the original plan, a full-sized, $1 million plus base to be built in the vicinity of Ardoch Road and Road 509.
For the Ompah fire service, the scenario is less clear. It might be possible to fix up the existing base, although there are issues with flooding at the back of the hall, and there is also the possibility of the township building a stand alone fire hall.
While promises have been made to the people in Ompah about a new fire hall and about the ambulance service, the latest pricing debacle has laid bare the fact that there is little political support, not only at Frontenac County, but on North Frontenac Council as well, for this project after all.
If it is to be killed, best to do it quickly and move on.
As it stands, there will be an ambulance idling at the North Frontenac Township garage on a deserted stretch of highway at Lavant for up to 10½ hours a day for another winter.
That can hardly be in keeping with anyone's idea of fiscal or environmental sustainability.
Further, this question should be asked.
No matter who builds what, it is hard to see why it should cost $257 a square foot to build a glorified garage with taxpayers' money.