For those of you not familiar with our upper tier municipal government, here’s a quick introduction. Lanark County council is made up of representatives of the communities within the county and Smiths Falls. Yes, Smiths Falls is a separated municipality and rather than forward a portion of property tax to the county, they pay for county services on a predetermined basis. The county is responsible for a number of roadways around the area, social services and housing, long term care (via Lanark Lodge), land development planning approvals, ambulance services, certain trails, and forests among other things. On average, just under a third of our municipal property taxes go to the county. Like municipal councils, county council meets twice a month from September to June and is organized into various committees such as community services, public works, and corporate services.
On Wednesday, October 14 at the Community Services committee meeting, some expensive news was delivered by two key staff leaders. Lanark Lodge director Jennie Bingley brought council up to date on the need to replace that facility’s main heating and air-conditioning system at a cost of $2M. The current unit is over 30 years old and well past its normal lifespan. Bingley reported that replacement parts were getting difficult to source and for added pressure, she noted that long-term care building temperatures are regulated by the province with acceptable minimums and maximums. The lodge is home to over 160 residents and is scheduled for replacement in the next few years. This caused much discussion around the table as councilors debated whether the HVAC project could be put off or whether the replacement costs could be partially recovered when the existing building is sold. At the end of the discussion it was decided to put the project into next year’s budget deliberations.
Social Services direct Emily Hollington was the next to bring some costly tidings to the committee. Her department is overseeing the construction of a new social housing apartment unit in Carleton Place at 7 Arthur Street. She brought the committee up to date on the progress of the building with news that anyone building a home or other building is facing this year; elevated materials costs and unforeseen delays. This 20 unit structure originally had a $4.2M estimate, but delays and increased supply prices have driven that figure past the $4.6M mark. She was asking for approval for a $442K contingency fund to avoid having to bring each cost overrun back to council for approval, which would lead to further delays. County councilor and Carleton Place Deputy Mayor Sean Redmond who works at a local building supply firm commented that these challenges were becoming normal for anyone in the construction industry in 2020. In the end, the committee approved the contingency fund request.