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Fire hall costs debated by town council

Amherstburg Town Hall

The cost of the new fire station was a topic of debate at the most recent meeting of town council with figures ranging from $9.5 million to $28 million depending on which council member was speaking.

Councillor Diane Pouget believed the new fire hall, to be built on the Libro Centre grounds near the intersection of Simcoe St. and Meloche Road, will cost more than the originally stated price of $9.5 million once it is debentured.

“The public should be aware the new fire hall will actually cost our taxpayers a whopping $28 million with 30 years of debentures,” she said.

Pouget said she voted against this “outrageous expenditure” along with Councillor Molly Allaire and Councillor Peter Courtney “believing we could have built a smaller hall similar to other municipalities” at a cheaper price.

“Of course, we were defeated with a famous four against three vote,” she said.

Pouget added: “The ongoing cost has a monumental negative effect on our budgets and I think council should reconsider this outrageous expenditure immediately.”

Mayor Michael Prue said he doesn’t take umbrage with Pouget’s remarks, but stated the fire hall will cost $9.5 million.

“If you look at comparisons, which I’ve looked at the ‘University of Facebook,’ people are sending around $24 million. That is, if you amortize it at seven per cent over 30 years, that’s how much it’s going to cost,” said Prue. “But nobody – nobody – said a word about LaSalle going to amortize theirs over 30 years and how much it’s going to cost. Nobody said a word about the one in B.C. that they’re asking for permission to amortize that in what’s that going to cost. The actual cost in all three municipalities is about $1 million of each other.”

Prue said municipalities have to borrow if they don’t have the cash on hand for such builds.

“Let’s be honest and realistic here. It costs money and if you don’t have it, you have to pay the bank,” said Prue.

Pouget asked for clarification from Prue and wanted to know if he was saying the fire hall would not cost $28 million. He responded by saying it would cost that if fully amortized at $9.5 million over 30 years at seven per cent “but hold on, a number of things might happen before then.” The mayor said Station 3 in Malden Centre could be sold and he estimated the town could get $1 million for that.

Station 1 could be sold as well due to the building not meeting AODA requirements.

“There may be money available from other levels of government. We may be looking at $6-7 million. We may be able to take some out of reserves, and no, I would be absolutely shocked if we end up paying $24 million and I would end up thinking the treasurer and chief weren’t doing their jobs if we end up paying that much.”

Pouget said she reported what was said during budget deliberations with treasurer Tracy Prince stating the estimated cost was $10 million used to project those numbers.

“We needed to get approvals so we could move forward with the RFP,” she said. “In projections, we provided that disclosure.”If a debenture was over 30 years for the full amount, she said it would come out to $950,000 per year, or $28.5 million over 30 years. She added senior managers will try to mitigate those costs by looking at other funding sources.

“We’re looking at potentially can we look at accessing some of our DC’s (development charges) to fund it. Can we get some grants to fund it? Is there another grant coming available when it’s time to go to debenture?” she said. “We’re going to try and lengthen the time before I go to debenture.”

Prince said “it is no different than if you mortgaged your house. Say you had a $500,000 house and you had an interest rate of five per cent, by the end of 30 years, you paid $960,000 for that house. It’s the same theory.”

The treasurer added “we will look to reduce it the best we can.”

Fire chief Bruce Montone said the tender has not gone out yet. He said a pre-qualification has been done with 11 contractors interested in bidding on a tender and seven of those were approved.

“That tender will be going out next month,” said Montone, estimating the results will be coming back in April.

Later in the meeting, Pouget asked that town council be provided with “a complete report” at the next public meeting on the “current status of the new proposed fire hall, including but not limited to the costs to date, the final costs with 30 years of debentures and any and all pertinent information relating to this new project.”

Prue asked if the report was coming and wanted to know when, with Montone stating town council received a report in March 2023 with a cost comparison report from the consultant at a cost of $15,000. He said the final design, based on council’s review and $1 million in cost reductions, was put forth to town council at that meeting.

Montone added the bidders will have at least one month after the tender is issued to review it. After that, the tender will be brought to town council “along with the status of the $511,400 that was approved two years ago to move forward with the design, development and creation of the tender. We have not exceeded that budget to date.”

Any expenses associated both with the consultant’s work and the work the town had to carry out to assist the consultant will be brought forward in April. Total cost and opportunities for revenue will be part of that report, the fire chief stated.

Montone said he didn’t believe he could meet the timeline for the next meeting as he didn’t know what the tender document would read. Prue said it couldn’t be done anyway as it would require a reconsideration of a March 2023 motion and Pouget voted in opposition thus couldn’t ask for a reconsideration.

The mayor stated “it’s coming back in April anyway” and while no motion of reconsideration came from those who supported the March 2023 resolution, Prue said Pouget would still get the information she wants, but in April instead of February.

“You’re getting everything you want, just a month later,” Prue told Pouget.

By Ron Giofu

Fire hall costs debated by town council

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