Frontenac County Council has decided to continue talking with the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority (CRCA) about the possibility of co-locating headquarters.
In a report to Council last week (March 21), Frontenac County Chief Administrative Officer Kelly Pender indicated that the CRCA and Frontenac County each require somewhere between 7,500 and 10,000 square feet of office space to run their operations, but together they would each require less space.
“We would only need one lobby, one large room for council meetings, one septic system, etc.” he said.
The motion that was before Council said they “remain open to continuing discussion with the CRCA with respect to the construction of a potential joint administrative facility located either on the grounds of the current county facility at 2069 Battersea Road, or the CRCA property at Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area at 1641 Perth Road (or in the vicinity).
The county Administrative Building Design Task Force (ABDTF) is expected to report back at the end of July with a final location and some detail about the potential for a new building.
The ABDTF was established two years ago to look at options for an upgrade to the Frontenac County Administrative Office. The office is located in Pittsburgh Township, which was part of Frontenac County when the office was established, but joined with the City of Kingston with municipal amalgamation in 1998. At the same time Frontenac County devolved into a Management Board, whose functions were to oversee Fairmount Home and act as a conduit for relations between the four Frontenac townships, the City of Kingston and senior levels of government.
The Management Board began to expand its scope, taking on Frontenac Paramedic Services and a multi-million dollar upgrade of Fairmount Home, and it returned to county status in 2004. Since then the planning, economic development, information technology, geographic information systems, and financial services departments have all been established and/or grown substantially. A consultant report into the future needs of the county that was completed in 2013, recommended looking at an office renovation or the establishment of a new office, with the preferred location being within the current boundaries of Frontenac County.
In 2016 Council started to look at options for renovating the existing office or building a new one.
The task force met three times in 2016, and came to the conclusion that a new building would be too pricey and that they should focus on renovation. The only scheduled meeting in 2017 was cancelled and the effort seemed to have fizzled out, at least as far as the current council’s mandate is concerned.
That changed when the county was approached by CRCA early this year. CRCA needs a new office and wanted to meet in order to see if a co-location initiative might save money.
The task force met again on March 9th, with representatives from CRCA. In the minutes from that meeting the possibility of renovating was not well received. The CRCA building is described as being “at the end of its useful life” and the existing county office as “an old building that would be costly to renovate.”
As far as the location of a new building is concerned, the minutes say that the CRCA needs to be located in “proximity to the 401”, adding that “it could move further north; however how far north would need to be determined.”
The members of the Frontenac County task force were less concerned about location, according to the minutes: “There was discussion around if the county offices should be located in the county; however most people see the city of Kingston as being located in the county and the county administrative offices have always been located in the city so the committee didn't see it as an issue.”
Task force members at that March 9 meeting included: Central Frontenac Councillor Tom Dewey, Frontenac Islands Councilor Natalie Nossal, and South Frontenac Mayor Ron Vandewal. Councillor John Inglis from North Frontenac, is also on the task force but was not at the meeting.
At the council meeting on March 21st, the matter of location was discussed.
“If we are thinking of moving it to Sydenham, it would be better,” said Frontenac Islands Mayor Dennis Doyle.
“What real difference does it make to Joe Public if the administration office is located in the county of Frontenac. They don’t even know that it isn’t located in Frontenac County now,” said Ron Vandewal.
John Inglis said “my own opinion is that there would be a cost saving by building with CRCS but I don’t think it is a good idea. I think there is a branding issue for county and CRCA if we co-build. My own preference would be to build somewhere in the county, it’s up to Council to decide where.”
Central Frontenac Mayor Frances Smith said “how much cost savings would there be. It would have to be substantial to justify building out of our borders.”
South Frontenac Councillor John Mcdougall said “I’d like to challenge the location issue as far as the branding side of things is concerned.”
“We are branding ourselves already and our office is not in Frontenac County,” replied Vandewal.
“The task force is not looking for a final decision, just approval to move this to the report stage,” said Kelly Pender.
Council approved the motion without further comment or dissent.