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City council postpones new library discussion after hearing cost has ballooned to $64 million

What was supposed to be discussed at Monday's council meeting will now be discussed in the fall in light of new financial information that says cost has jumped $14.4 million
20190715 library ts
Concept drawing of the new main library.

City staff has learned that the new main library to be built on Baker Street will cost $14.4 million more than originally anticipated.

A city news release issued late Thursday says staff received the new information three days ago

"Three days ago, city staff received the first cost summary of the current library design and were surprised to learn the forecasted cost is in fact $64.4 million—$14.4 million higher than understood at the time the report was authored," said the news release.

As a result an expected discussion at Monday's meeting of city council regarding an earlier staff recommendation about looking into the downsizing of the new library is being postponed.

That report was written before the new information was delivered to city staff.

"The scheduled discussion of a staff report that recommends investigating the downsizing of the new main library on Baker Street, and what was expected to be a long list of delegates, has been removed from the agenda," the city release said.

Numerous delegates were expected.

Council endorsed a 2017 business case that projected a cost of $46 million to build a new library. A number of different financial pressures since then — including a cap on development charges that could be used for funding, and potential impacts of the provincial Bill 108 — led to the staff recommendation about investigating the possibility of downsizing the project by roughly 25 per cent.

“This pause allows us to work through various scenarios, and then help council understand the implications of each as it works to balance affordability with its vision for a new library," said deputy CAO Scott Stewart.

"A smaller library is one option. Reducing the scope of other tax-funded capital projects, increasing property taxes, an enhanced fundraising campaign, and/or introducing a special levy are others. These are among a handful of ways council might choose to narrow the funding gap if the current library design is the preferred option.”

Staff will schedule a public session for council in the fall, at which council can explore the implications of the various options for narrowing the funding gap.

Anyone wishing to delegate on the subject will be able to do so at a future meeting, the city said.