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Future of county administration centre won't be discussed until after municipal elections

'Having our Wellington County administration building in Guelph makes about as much sense as Guelph having its administration building in Fergus'
20211206 WCMA kk
Wellington County Museum and Archives at Wellington Place. Coun. Campbell Cork proposed in his notice of motion to relocate the county's administration centre to Wellington Place at Aboyne.

COUNTY OF WELLINGTON - Council has postponed discussions around the future of the county administration centre until after the municipal elections. 

At Thursday’s virtual meeting, the county council decided to have further discussions around the future of the administration centre in Guelph until after the Oct. 24 municipal elections as part of the next strategic plan review.

Coun. Campbell Cork’s notice of motion from Nov. 25 called for a special meeting on the possibility of moving the county’s administration centre out of Guelph and into a central location such as Wellington Place.

“I think the point of having a discussion now is that we are at a crossroads,” said Cork.

“We’re at the point of either spending a bunch of money on Guelph or should we spend some money someplace else and bring the admin centre back to Wellington County.”

Cork’s motion stems from the administration centre’s need for proper parking, noting that many visitors would need to use a GPS in order to find the underground parking for the county building.

“If the county decides to stay in Guelph, we will be spending roughly $27 million to create an underground parking lot and if we need land, that price will go up,” he explained. 

“And I believe that a multi-storey parking garage would further push the problem down the road. Having our Wellington County administration building in Guelph makes about as much sense as Guelph having its administration building in Fergus. It makes no sense at all.” 

The majority of council expressed that the motion requires significant discussion, research and decision making; that deciding on what to do with the county administration centre should be done at a later date. 

Coun. Chris White noted that now may not be the right time to have the discussion around this as Wellington County is still in the middle of a pandemic. 

“We've got continuum care on the table, ambulances, libraries and a whole pile of things to look at. Yes, frankly, we’ve got some parking issues but I don’t consider this as an immediate priority. I would be very comfortable going with this in our next strategic plan review, I think this is where this belongs,” said White. 

“But we’ve got three major things we need to focus on and not this administration centre: one, the elections; two, the pandemic; and three, we’ve got a lot of projects coming ahead.” 

Coun. Dianne Ballantyne agreed with considering the ideas as part of the strategic planning process, as long as money wasn’t being spent on initiatives like the proposed parking garage in the meantime.

Meanwhile, Coun. Earl Campbell suggested a compromise wherein a portion of the county departments can move to Wellington Place, while some stay in Guelph. 

“I think this is a discussion we need to have because placing the whole thing is cost prohibitive and not the right move,” said Campbell. 

“Maybe we can compromise to relocate some of the departments into Wellington Place instead of investing the whole $27 million; we can just invest a little bit of the money and place some of the departments there.” 

Warden Kelly Linton noted that if council decides to move forward with a discussion, council should be prepared to direct staff to drop a few projects in order to undertake a study of the required scale for the administration centre.

“This is a massive project, and I don’t think this is a priority right now; it is something we need to discuss and have the next council put in their strategic plan review,” said Linton.