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To build or not to build: county council divided over proposed garages

At a total cost of $74.2 million, a proposed construction schedule in the 10-year plan would see new county garages constructed every two years starting with Erin in 2025

WELLINGTON ‒ County councillors were divided over the future of four county garages proposed for Erin, Brucedale, Harriston and Aberfoyle during a special meeting of council about the 2024 budget and 10-year capital plan. 

According to a presentation by county treasurer Ken DeHart, while the county currently has the required land for expansion, the new cost estimate for the project is $74.2 million – $40 million more than originally anticipated. It would also require an increase in taxes and county debt to stick to the current replacement schedule. 

“I know none of us take lightly the two services we’ve spoken about this morning; ambulances and roads are the two most essential, critical services that this county provides,” said Coun. Campbell Cork, in favour of deferral. “(But) I think we’re all aware these numbers are truly a game-changer.”

However, Coun. James Seeley was among the few defending the proposed schedule, arguing a deferral would only burden the next iteration of council with further construction cost increases. 

“I understand (you) don’t want tax increases ... but the implications down the road are tremendous,” said Seeley, using Aberfoyle and Brucedale's aging facilities as examples. “We don’t want to get down to the point where we’re building the last two garages and (the design) is just four tin walls and no windows.”

Of the eight county garages, two in Centre Wellington and Drayton have been replaced. A third garage in Arthur will begin construction later this year.

The original 10-year plan proposed new three garages between 2025 and 2031, with a combined facility for Erin and Brucedale until further studies recommended they remain separate. 

“This is the cost of growth and it’s not going to get cheaper,” said Seeley. “We need to fund this properly.”

According to county engineer Don Kudo, the Erin garage is a main priority due to equipment and storage issues while staff facilities including washrooms, lunchrooms, and HR at all garages are not considered "to the county standard."

The proposed schedule would see new garages constructed every two years starting with Erin in 2025. 

An updated report will be presented in November. 

Isabel Buckmaster is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for GuelphToday. LJI is a federally-funded program.

About the Author: Isabel Buckmaster, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Isabel Buckmaster covers Wellington County under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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