Rideau Lakes Township to move forward with RFP on Chantry municipal offices

Rideau Lakes Chantry municipal offices
The Rideau Lakes municipal offices in Chantry will undergo a request for proposals to find out the cost of retrofitting the building built more than 40 years ago. Photo credit: Laurie Weir.
Posted on: May 29, 2024

What will happen with the Rideau Lakes municipal offices in Chantry?

Will the building be retrofitted to house some 25 staff members, partially demolished so a new space can be built on the existing footprint, or will another location be chosen for a new build?

These are some of the questions that a request for proposal (RFP) will answer – and the cost of each option. 

Coun. Paula Banks dropped a motion at the May 27 meeting of the municipal services committee being a little more aggressive in her wording than that of Mayor Arie Hoogenboom, who tabled a similar motion. 

Banks’ motion proposed they direct staff to send out the RFP for design services with the goal being that as much of the current office space as possible be utilized, while taking into consideration a design for expansion that is large enough for all employees while creating a comfortable and creative work space. She also noted that the successful designer establishes a needs’ and wants’ list from staff through an internal survey and/or the chief administrative officer provides up to 10 recommendations for their new work space and it be provided to and approved by council as one of the first steps in the process. The motion went on to read that the successful designer need to have two concept drawings to choose from and that the design be ready to go to tender by Dec. 20 to start building by next spring.

“I don’t see the rush to proceed to RFP status,” Hoogenboom said. “It’s an important issue but we’ve got to make sure we get it right before we go to an RFP.”

Asking for two designs would be twice the cost and, in the end, council could reject both. 

“That’s what happened with the hub (in Portland that would support the offices, a library and hall but didn’t go to tender),” the mayor said. “We ended up with a design that wasn’t acceptable and didn’t move forward. We spent a lot of money and we got little out of that. I don’t think we’re talking about tearing this down, but tearing a portion of it down to make this place more acceptable. I think that’s great and gets us to a starting point. I think this motion is contrary to staff recommendations.”

The report from the CAO talked about retrofitting costs.

“We’re going to have to retrofit this building no matter what,” the mayor said. “My point is, if we’re going to spend $3M or $4M on a new build, maybe it belongs in the parking lot here or maybe it belongs in Elgin.”

Hoogenboom pointed out a recent correspondence with an Elgin landowner willing to offer the township five acres for no charge. 

“We need to give that some consideration,” he said, “so we don’t end up getting six months down this road and coming back to follow staff’s recommendation.”

Staff for the past number of years have all said the same thing: “It does not make sense to try and retrofit for the existing staff and the growth that we’ve had. So, we’re going to need a new build. We can easily set a budget for $4M for example and can build a 7,000 square foot building in the best possible location. If that ends up being here, then I’m comfortable with that.”

Hoogenboom cautioned: “I think we need to go slow and get it right.”

Coun. Sue Dunfield noted that when the hub concept was brought to the community, there were three designs. “I’m thinking the two concepts is probably a good idea,” she said. “That would come after consultation with staff and council and listen to all the ideas.”

Dunfield said the property on the highway in Elgin may have some issues with an entrance, noting they may need to purchase additional property. 

“Another thing we really need to look at, more and more staff are working from home,” Dunfield said. “AI is coming into reality and we’ll be dealing with that over the next five years. So many people pay their bills on line.”

Having a municipal building is “really for backup,” she added. “I’m just thinking that we have to take a look at the future … why can’t we use what we have and fix it?”

Coun. Deborah Anne Hutchings said she’d like to see what the cost to retrofit this office would be before they move forward with anything else, “then make a decision, do we go or do we stay?”

Dept. Mayor Marcia Maxwell said it makes more sense to build new in a vibrant community, like Elgin. “Nobody has ever said tear this building down and get rid of it,” she said. “I think we should convert it back to the public works garage that it was originally and make use of it for the staff.”

Banks said this was the main concern she heard when she went door-to-door in her by-election campaign. People wanted to know why they weren’t looking at Chantry to investigate the possibilities. 

Coun. Jeff Banks said they have to find out the cost of the Chantry offices before moving forward with anything. 

“This is a good building,” he said. “It’s in satisfactory condition. There could be an addition but we have to find out what that cost is. We can’t be building a brand-new building without having a renovation on this. This is the end game here – and if we find out it’s going to be $5M to renovate this … but we have got to get on this, not in 2027 or 2028.”

This motion was defeated 5-4, before an amendment made by P. Banks removed the construction date of 2025. It was then revoted on and passed 5-4. 

The process of this motion cao Shellee Fournier explained, is that the RFP will be issued and then it will come back to council. 

“We don’t have money in any budget to conduct the RFP,” she said. “We have some unspent funds … we can redirect them to but I think we’re looking at $15,000. The dollar amount will have to be discussed when the RFP comes back for reward.”

The second motion on the table concerning this issue was deferred pending the outcome of the RFP process.

Hometown News
Author: Hometown News