Guelph postpones library decision after learning about $14.4 million higher costs

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

Guelph city council has decided to postpone its decision about a new central library after learning the projected costs of the current design are $14.4 million higher than what had been reported by staff, The Guelph Mercury Tribune reports.

Councillors were to discuss a recommendation on Monday to reduce the new library’s size to 65,000 sq. ft. from 90,000 sq. ft., reducing the city’s share of the cost to $34.18 million from just over $50 million under the original plan.

However, the city announced a few days ahead of the meeting that the council discussion will need to be postponed until the fall after learning the forecasted library cost is actually $64.4 million, not $50 million.

“Whereas Council endorsed a 2017 business case that projected a cost of $46 million to build a new library, financial pressures since that time — including a cap on development charges that can be used to fund the library, the 10-year funded capital plan and potential impacts of recent provincial legislation have created a shortfall,” the city says in a statement.

Toronto-based Diamond Schmitt Architects reported the extra costs to the city last week.

Acting chief administrative officer Scott Stewart told the Mercury Tribune that staff needed more time to get through this new information before discussing it at council.

Earlier this week, Guelph Public Library CEO Steven Kraft said staff’s suggestion to shrink the library under the levels recommended by the firm KPMG is an “extreme disappointment.” He said with changes like that made to the design, the city is no longer looking toward the future with this project.

Stewart said the city still “has its eyes on the prize” in building the new library, but it is approaching this issue from a fiscal perspective, keeping in mind the entire Baker Street redevelopment project. He said the city has end-of-year deadlines to consider with its partner, Windmill Development Group, and staff need to consider not just the design of the library but the entire Baker Street project.

He said in a news release that when this topic gets back in front of councillors, they’ll need to consider a variety of options, knowing the higher costs.

One option would be to design a smaller library, he wrote.

Council could also vote to reduce the scope of other tax-funded capital projects, increase property taxes, hold a fundraising campaign or introduce a special levy.

“These are among a handful of ways Council might choose to narrow the funding gap if the current library design is the preferred option.”

There will be a public session as  council explores options to narrow the funding gap, tje Mercury Tribune reported.

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