MANITOWANING—Assiginack council continues to debate work on the aging Manitowaning building that houses the Canada Post Corporation and Bank of Montreal but one thing is clear, council agrees it wants both corporations to remain in the downtown area now and in the future.
“We want the services to stay and want it to be done at the cheapest cost to the township,” stated Assiginack Mayor Brenda Reid at a committee of the whole meeting last week. “So, we will first get a cost of what modulars will cost to house both (Canada Post and the Bank of Montreal) while repairs take place.”
Alton Hobbs Assiginack CAO and deputy clerk told council, “Council had a study done of the building in 2021. Council asked what the price would be over five years if the municipality entertained proposals for the work to be carried out over five years. The costs are roughly $703,000 and there is a 40 percent contingency on top of that.”
“Council had asked us to check with both tenants if they wanted to remain, to determine if this work would be carried out or alternative arrangements would be considered,” said Mr. Hobbs. “Both (corporations) said they would be flexible but wanted to remain here.”
“No other decisions were made by council,” said Mr. Hobbs. He pointed out work had been carried out on a complaint about tiles having lifted in the post office, with the tiles being replaced last month. “We need direction of what council wants us to do to move forward on the building.”
Councillors Jennifer Hooper and Janice Bowerman both declared a conflict of interest on the issue.
“How much is the building costing us every year?” asked Councillor Dwayne Elliott who was informed the township subsidizes the building at $7,000 a year.
Mayor Reid said council needs to consider different options: if it plans to keep the building, look at alternative housing for the two corporations while repairs are done on the building, or look at another building to house them. “But we definitely want to keep both corporations here.”
Councillor Rob Maguire said the township has local contractors that could do all the work that is required on the building and that each work item could be broken down and dealt with.
The present building, “provides housing for two essential services in our community,” stated Councillor Maguire.
“I agree with Rob on that,” said Councillor Elliott. “But we subsidize the building at $7,000 per year for two multi-million-dollar corporations.”
He noted the concerns with the main lobby of the building needing work and the outside entrance into the building is not fully accessible.
Mayor Reid said the township needs to look at all its options. “Regardless, we need to get moving on this.”
“With a temporary building (modulars) set up there would be a cost to this,” said Councillor Elliott.
“We can’t do a lot of repairs on the building if they (the tenants) are both in the building,” said Mayor Reid.
“If we continue housing them this would be at the cost to our taxpayers and the township would continue to lose money,” said Mayor Reid.
It was pointed out by Mr. Hobbs that during the last term of council someone had recommended the building should be sold, but council had rejected this idea, but felt that options should be looked at to provide housing for the two corporations that would be less than the $703,000 (required to make the necessary repairs on the building). “The question was could we find modular buildings that could be put at the back of the lot. And could we sell the current building as is. However, no decision was made,” he said.
“We need to set priorities,” said Councillor Maguire. “Determine what the costs are and what is viable.” He pointed out the previous council had agreed to increase the costs of renting out the building to the two corporations by eight percent to remain revenue neutral.
“I would hate to see them move out,” said Councillor Maguire. “It is critical that they remain here for the vitality of the township.”
“We need to maintain the services both provide in the community,” said Councillor Elliott.
As for the cost of modulars to be set up, at this time Mr. Hobbs said he has no idea what the cost would be.
“We need to crunch the numbers so we get the best value,” said Councillor Maguire.
Mayor Reid said by the January meeting of council “we need to make a decision with the numbers in front of us.”
As had been reported last spring, the then-council discussed the condition of the building that is currently being leased out to the two tenants after receiving an engineering study that shows that over $700,000 worth of renovations and work is needed to be done on the building.
The engineer’s report, prepared by J.L Richards Engineers-Architects Planners in 2021, provided a cost estimate of over $700,000 for the necessary repairs. Primarily, the report indicates that the leaks in the basement and maybe the front steps and ramp at the front of the building are the two primary improvements that need to be accomplished.
The township already faces a deficit on the building in question, $7,000 per year. The report noted that structurally, the building is in good shape and there are not huge concerns at this point.
The overall estimated cost of the repairs amounts to $703,000 but with current supply problems and materials, this could increase the cost to over $1 million.