First off I love libraries. Libraries were a refuge for me as a child and continue to be as an adult. I use the library in Owen Sound and I use the library in Meaford. I’m very much aware that the Meaford library does not meet accessibility standards. I know that if a parent or child has mobility difficulties, it is pretty much impossible for them to use the children’s section. We definitely need a new library.
So what are the issues with this library selection?
The issues are cost and whether we got hoodwinked. Or if the Municpality even cares if we did. Why would we not build a brand new library, one designed specific to the purpose and why would we not wait for the grants that projects like this are usually built with?
I think there has been a rush to purchase. There has not been appropriate public consultation (that means before the purchase). And whether you agree or not, that is the public perception.
The public doesn’t understand why this site was selected over others. Was there consideration to examine purchasing Meaford Community School from the Bluewater School Board, or to look at the public lands we already own to build a new library?
I know some of you believe this was done, but why the rush to purchase the former Foodland site? Why didn’t we wait?
The municipal assessment on that building is somewhere over $700,000.00 according to the treasurer. That’s an assessment based on a fully operational grocery store (Category C if you like). So the purchase price of 1.525 million strikes a good many of us as far too much. I know the response is “Well we had an appraisal,” but many people don’t reallize there are many different ways of appraising a site. I doubt it was appraised for value, as an empty building lacking cooling and heating or any kind of tenant. I doubt it was appraised as being partially in a flood plain. I suspect it was appraised as a best use appraisal. Of course we don’t know, as this appraisal was done by the seller, not by the Municipality. The building even has some health issues that require remediation.
Did anyone consider other buildings or sites in the downtown, either listed for sale or not. A million and a half dollars will buy you quite a bit. I think paying over double the municipally assessed value has raised many questions and concerns.
The reason why I stress infrastructure grants is because I know that this can reduce our costs to one half to one third or even better. Infrastructure grants are how small communities like ours with limited tax bases accomplish big things like libraries.
So why is the library project not fully embraced by the community? Because after 2 years of substandard snow removal, after yet another 4 years of deteriorating roads, after having sidewalks being ripped out instead of being fixed and some roads actually being returned to gravel, all this in the name of cost-cutting, to hear that we would purchase an old grocery store for over 1 and half million dollars without an independent appraisal makes people wonder if they matter at all and what Staff and Council are doing with our money. It is because the cost estimate $5.5 million roughly, almost 8 ½ million after interest payments leaves us wondering if anyone is watching the public purse.
So yes, let’s build a new library, I want one too, I started my whole Meaford political odyssey on the library board, but let’s do it right, and more importantly lets make sure it’s seen to be done right.