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Mayor makes it clear he's behind plans for new downtown library

Current main branch is 'a disaster' says Mayor at annual State of the City address
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Mayor Cam Guthrie holds up an old board game during his State of the City address Friday at the Delta Hotel. Tony Saxon/GuelphToday

A council debate on the future of a new main branch library is still 11 days away, but Mayor Cam Guthrie made his feelings crystal clear Friday morning.

Speaking at his annual State of the City address at the Delta Hotel, Guthrie said he is 100 per cent behind the proposed $50 million library that is being proposed as part of the Baker Street redevelopment.

“I am going to be very honest with you here. A few years ago, I was not shy about publicly questioning whether this city really needs a new main downtown library,” Guthrie said.

“But since I have become the mayor, I have come to see the new main library as not just a want, but it is a need in our community.”

A special meeting of Guelph City Council will be held Feb. 13 where the library board will present its business case for a new main branch library.

Guthrie even went so far as to ask members of the library board in attendance at Friday’s event to stand so that they could be recognized by the business and institutional movers and shakers in the room.

He urged people to connect with the library if they felt they had anything to offer in any way in regards to a partnership moving forward.

“The current main library is inadequate in almost every way - from size, to accessibility, to parking. I took a tour of the library when I first became mayor and to be blunt, it’s a disaster and not living up to its full potential,” Guthrie said.

“It’s about building up the economic engine in our downtown core,” Guthrie said, referring to its role in the entire Baker Street development.

“If ever there was a community project to rally around, it is the one,” the mayor said.

Friday’s breakfast speech, hosted by the Guelph Chamber of Commerce, saw about 200 people attend.

Guthrie, inspired by an old Guelph-centric version of Monopoly that made the rounds 10 years ago, handed out a State of the City micro version of the game and used it to hit on all the high notes over the past year, including:

Guelph Hydro merger: “It wasn’t an easy decision, but I think history will show it was one of the best ones Guelph City Council has ever made.”

Guelph Transit; “Throwing more money at transit is not going to solve core issues. Not having the willingness to explore all options to better its service is a disservice to its riders.”

Wilson Street Parkade: “This is not about building parking for city employees.”

Upcoming Guelph Community Plan: “It’s going to drive and inform the priorities, plans and strategies that will be coming out of City Hall in the months and years to come.”

Waste collection at condominiums: “This has been a longstanding fairness issue that has been going on for the past 10 years.”

Clair/Maltby plans: “This is important. We need more housing in our city. People want to live here and we need to provide them with more housing in the future.”

Guelph Innovation District: “It’s a bold move. The city is taking on the risk of acquiring the property up front. But council is confident that we will be rewarded as a community.”