St. Lazare officials make their case for a new town hall
PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK
St. Lazare Mayor Robert Grimaudo discusses details of the town’s proposed new city hall/community centre during a public information meeting on Saturday, November 21.
St. Lazare town officials met with residents to discuss the scope and address the perceptions residents may have had about its new city hall project and the current $10 million price tag during a special public information meeting that was attended by about 50 people last Saturday, November 21.
Overall, Mayor Robert Grimaudo said he was pleased with the turnout as the town’s representatives brought explained the new town hall during a one-hour presentation and to answer questions regarding the loan by-law and the financial ramifications it would have on the municipality as a whole.
“We wanted to clarify the situation in regards to the amount of money that will be actually involved,” Grimaudo told Your Local Journal. “A loan by-law is the maximum amount of money allotted for the project. Provincial rules and regulations mandate municipalities apply for the maximum amount. Therefore, we don’t know what the actual loan will be at the end of the process.
“Let’s take the fire station as an example. It was originally a $5 million loan by-law, but then the subsidies kicked in and the tenders for construction were a lot less than we had budgeted so we found savings there. In the end, the loan by-law (for the city hall) will be a lot less, maybe half than we anticipate at this point,” Grimaudo added.
For St. Lazare, the current city hall is the last major infrastructure item that has to be modernized. “What people have to understand is that in the past three to four years, the town has addressed every single infrastructure issue that had been neglected in the last 20 years,” said Grimaudo.
“Now we have to address the town hall and this is a project that we kept for last. We took care of our water works, water filtration plant, public works department, fire hall and roads. When we passed a $10 million loan-by law for our roads, nobody blinked an eye,” Grimaudo added.
Not all residents agree with the town’s new city hall initiative. Some people have publicly complained that the current $10 million price tag is too high a price to pay for a major project in an era of austerity and that it’s the taxpayers who are footing the bill for seemingly endless infrastructure projects that has resulted in hefty annual tax bills.
Grimaudo doesn’t deny that taxpayers are footing the cost of infrastructure enhancement projects. Instead, he said he prefers to focus on the long-term savings the city hall will generate because the town will no longer have to rent out space to adequately house all its administrative services.
With a current monthly expenditure of $200,000 for rent, the new city hall would result in a saving of over $7 million that would go directly to pay off the structure over its 30-year amortization period, said Grimaudo.
Marc-André Esculier, who has voiced his opposition to the city hall project when it was first announced, said he was disappointed there was no public question period after the presentation was completed. Esculier said that it would have been more beneficial to hear about everyone’s concerns rather than the individual one-on-one meetings between residents and town representatives.
Grimaudo, however, said the town’s transparency was evident throughout the entire presentation and during the individual impromptu meetings. “It went well in the sense that, we were completely and wholly transparent about everything,” said Grimaudo.
“Some people were a little concerned when they first walked in, but I’d say they walked out with a renewed confidence. I think the residents were very happy at how transparent we were. It was very clear that we didn’t hide anything from them and I feel the residents appreciated that,” Grimaudo added.