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Published on Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Council reviews Chamber redesign

Oakville council looking at $2.2-million renovation for council chamber

Council reviews Chamber redesign
Photo Courtesy of the Town of Oakville
An artist's conception of what the new Oakville council chamber would look like.
By David Lea, Oakville Beaver

Oakville’s town council voted last night (Nov. 20) to move forward a $2.2-million plan to renovate the council chamber.

The renovations, which must still be approved by the 2018 budget committee, would see the chamber altered, in part, to accommodate the two new councillors who will come when council grows to 15 members following the 2018 municipal election.

Town staff said the chamber’s information technology (IT) system and heating and cooling systems would also be replaced and the room would be brought up to AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) standards.

Ward 4 town and regional Coun. Allan Elgar objected to the cost of the renovation and called for town staff to re-examine the proposal.

“It seems like we are getting something a little fancier than we need,” he said.

“When I take a closer look and I realize we would actually be reducing the general public seating by 25 per cent and that this would cost more than $2 million, I think it is time to go back to ground zero and look at what we can do as a council to minimize the cost.”

Elgar said he was completely prepared to support funding needed to make the chamber accessible to all, but argued that could be done for less than $2.2 million.

The town’s corporate services commissioner, Gord Lalonde, said the overall seating for the public would be similar to what is currently in place.

At the moment, he said, the public gallery has seating for 153 people, which would drop to seating for 140, assuming each person only needs 18 inches of space.

Ward 6 Coun. Tom Adams questioned the proposed seat widths, noting that while getting that number of people into those pews would be possible, it wouldn’t be comfortable.

Lalonde noted improvements would also be made to the system, which displays the council meeting live in the Town Hall South Atrium so members of the public who can’t find seating in the council chamber can view the meeting from there.

Elgar said he didn’t like the idea of more people viewing the meeting from the South Atrium because those people cannot be seen by council and councillors have no idea how many there are.

The council chamber previously served as a courtroom and still features a prisoner’s box and judge’s dais, and while the plan calls for the removal of these structures, Lalonde said the renovations are far from just cosmetic.

“The IT infrastructure here is 14 years old and is coming to its end of life. It is working now, but there are great lengths we go to keep it running. The room does not meet AODA standards. It was constructed according to the building code in 2003 and the slope in here is not wheelchair accessible.”

A breakdown of the anticipated costs listed:

•$638,000 for the interior (raised floor) ceiling, lighting, HVAC

•$127,000 for communications/IT infrastructure

•$204,000 for millwork and benches

•$449,000 for new computer hardware, additional AV (including South Atrium)

•$314,000 for consultants, permits, e.t.c.,

•$109,000 for project management

•$117,000 for design and accessibility contingency

•$290,000 for general condition/overhead/construction contingency

Oakville Mayor Rob Burton said he strongly supported the plan.

“I believe you will have a much better set of working conditions and that the public will benefit from this too,” he said to council.

Elgar ended his remarks calling the plan “a total waste of money.”

For other councillors, the accessibility issue was most prominent.

Ward 5 Coun. Jeff Knoll called on town staff to provide a breakdown of the AODA mandatory expenditures within the plan when the item comes before the budget committee.

“You already told us it would be $227,000 to fix the sloped floor so I’m guessing (the mandatory expenditures) are a very large portion of this budget and I would like to know what that is,” he said.

Council was ultimately split on whether the renovations plan should go before the budget committee.

Councillors Natalia Lishchyna, Adams, Marc Grant, Knoll, Mayor Burton, Nicholas Hutchins, and Sean O’Meara voted to receive the report.

Councillors Elgar, Roger Lapworth, Ralph Robinson, Ray Chisholm, Dave Gittings and Cathy Duddeck voted against receiving it.

If the budget committee and later council approved the renovations plan, construction on the council chamber would begin in March and finish before December.

During that time council meetings, committee of adjustment meetings and standing committee meetings (when necessary) would be held in the South Atrium.

The inaugural meeting of the new council following the 2018 election would be the first meeting held in the new chamber.

This isn’t the first time town hall renovations have drawn attention.

During the 2006-2010 term of council, the Town of Oakville spent nearly $250,000 on renovations of the office of the mayor and council at town hall.
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Author: Mayor Rob Burton

Categories: News




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