Acknowledging that the Smiths Falls Town Hall is presently so poorly designed that visitors often wonder if they have come to the right place, town councillors agreed at a Dec. 11 meeting that renovations to the building are an immediate priority.
Presenting an architect’s report on a suggested multi-phase project to both redevelop the town hall and build an adjacent “town square,” Director of Community Services Art Manhire noted the concept grew out of the town’s successful application for Canada 150 funding to create a new tourism and economic development centre within the town hall complex.
A total of $60,920 in funding was received for the project, which will cost a total of $200,000. The work is under way and will be completed by March 2018.
Manhire said the town realized the this projected should be part of a plan to redevelop the entire town hall complex, and staff have been working with architects from the firm Plus VG “to identify the possibilities and costs of the project, and to break the project out into phases.”
Presenting his recommendations at the Dec. 11 meeting, architect Dan Wojcik explained that his firm divided the town hall and town square project into five phases, including phase 1, the tourism and economic development centre. Phase 2, which would cost an estimated $1.4 million, involves renovating the front entrance and administration area, and installing a service counter.
The goal of Phase 2, said Wojcik, is “to create an accessible, inclusive and kind of inviting area.”
Phase 3, costing an estimated $1.6, includes the development of the town square in the area between the town hall and the public library. A wheelchair ramp and landscaping for the library are included in the work, and a large percentage of the cost comes from a plan to plant several mature trees. A bandstand, for which the town has found a donor, is included in the town square concept.
Phases 4 and 5 of the architects’ plans involve renovating the town hall’s remaining administration areas, and moving the currently inaccessible council chamber to the ground floor.
Visitors to the town hall currently enter the front door and encounter an empty desk and hallway, noted Councillor Chris Cummings. Phases 1 and 2 are his personal top priorities, he added, because “those are the public areas that are an embarrassment.
Other members of council agreed with Cummings’ choice of priorities, with Councillors Dawn Quinn and Joe Gallipeau taking the position that the town square can wait until the town has more money and fewer urgent priorities.
Councillor Jay Brennan added that his next priority after the town hall renovations is to reopen Confederation Bridge, which has been closed for a number of years.