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Callander council shelves plans for a new library building

Concerned with future operating costs, council does not support library board’s funding application

Plans to move ahead with a new building for Callander’s library have been shelved.

The decision came during last evening’s city council meeting, as councillors were reluctant to move ahead with the library board’s proposed funding application.

Located at 30 Catherine Street in downtown Callander, the town’s library is approximately 1,030 square feet and serves a population of just under 4,000 people.

For years, the library board has been planning for a new building. Fundraising initiatives have proven successful, but the community’s generosity is not nearly enough to fully fund the project, which is estimated to cost $6 million.

See: Callander Library preparing for a new chapter as community hub

In 2014 the library drafted a strategic plan to help reach this goal. The plan details the “lack of space” within the building that was making it difficult to offer programs and provide services to the community.

For a time, the project seemed promising. The city purchased the property for the building on Lansdowne Street, on the shore of Callander Bay, and architectural drawings were drafted and approved by both council and the library board.

However, last year, the town was denied a request for funding from Ontario’s Ministry of Infrastructure, and the new library never materialized.

Seeking another funding opportunity, the library board was considering applying for a grant from Infrastructure Canada that would help offset costs. This grant favours new builds and retrofits with a minimal environmental impact.

The Green and Inclusive Community Buildings project grant focuses on “making buildings more energy-efficient” with a lower carbon footprint.

The Government of Canada’s website also states the fund encourages builders to reach “net-zero standards” which helps “increase efficiency” while “building resiliency to climate change.”

If approved, this grant would cover up to 60 per cent of the new library’s cost, leaving the municipality responsible for approximately $2.4 million.

That cost was a concern for council, with Councillor Daryl Vaillancourt mentioning that future operating expenses may be more than the town can afford.

“We have to make sure we go into this with our eyes wide open regarding the operating costs,” he said because those must be “covered by the taxpayer.”

“We really need to know what we’re getting into.”

Melissa Sones, speaking on behalf of the library board, mentioned that having “a net zero carbon building” would “allow us to offset some of those operating costs.”

Councillor Linda Alkins raised the point that the town’s original plans for the library would require updating to include the green features the grant demands, which would also add to project costs.

“We’re starting to get into some unique engineering,” Vaillancourt said, “and those will drive your costs up.”

“There are a lot of questions up in the air,” he said, adding “it’s an awful lot of money for a very small community.”

“I do not agree” with moving ahead with “such an expensive building for such a small population,” Councillor Jordy Carr said, adding that she agreed the town “needs to move you somewhere,” but not necessarily into a new build.

“I do not think it’s a good investment for the ratepayer’s money,” she said.

Callander councillors moved a motion, “that council is not prepared at this time to support an application for a new, net-zero, carbon-neutral building” for the library to move into.

Council will send a formal letter to the Callander Public Library Board advising them of their decision.

About the Author: David Briggs

David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering civic and diversity issues for BayToday. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada
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