The question of what to do with a historic building in Picton’s downtown core is now up for discussion.
Picton’s Town Hall and former fire station is being listed for potential sale through a request for proposal process.
On Thursday, the committee of the whole carried a motion to receive proposals for the building’s future from all who are interested following what staff called considerable interest in the 2 Ross Street since it was announced that a new Picton Fire Station would be constructed. Although the Picton Town Hall remains in operation, the lower level has been vacant since the Fire Department relocated to its new site on McDonald Drive in 2016.
The committee went behind closed doors following the Thursday meeting to discuss the matter and when they returned to open session, Picton councillor Lenny Epstein was quick to voice his objection to the potential sale of the property.
“It’s still in active use,” said Epstein. “It’s the only Town Hall we have in the downtown core. I’m concerned it’s like were are selling grandma’s silverware. Once you sell it, getting it back is difficult. We should keep it while we have it as it’s being used by many groups 40 hours per week. We need to find a way to maintain it as a public asset. I like the idea of opening it up to the community for ideas to see if the building could still be used as a public asset.”
Financial records for 2016 show Fire Hall expenses totaling $18,719 and the Town Hall at $51,960.00. With the annual revenue sitting at $6,223, the town hall is showing an operating deficit of $64,456, considerably higher than the 2015 operating loss of $37,943.
The majority of 2016 income generated at the location was received through fourteen community group bookings by way of annual Picton Town Hall user fees of $300/year or Multi-Use Hall Fees of $350/year generating $4,550.00 of the total revenue of $6,223.00. In a presentation to council at the special committee of the whole meeting on March 25, 2014 regarding the financial impact of the proposed new Picton fire station it was noted that surplus stations could be repurposed to create new economic drivers and provide new property tax revenues. The agenda also provided a detailed financial projection which suggested that the proceeds from the sale of the Picton Fire Station specifically (estimated at $525,000) could reduce borrowing requirements for the new Picton Fire Station.
While he is not opposed to allowing the public to come forward with possible ideas, Mayor Robert Quaiff reminded the horseshoe that the intent was to sell the former fire hall to put the funds towards the purchase of the new one.
The committee agreed to give potential interest groups 90 days to come forward with plans for the building.
The matter will come back to council on July 25 for final approval.
Meanwhile in other County fire department related news, Fire Chief Scott Manlow has been given the green light to purchase a new motorized fire rescue boat in order to respond to water emergencies quicker.
On Thursday, the committee of the whole unanimously voted to expedite a motion from the fire department seeking permission to buy a TINGA Rigid Inflatable Rescue Boat (RIB), motor and trailer for $21,000.
Currently the fire department doesn’t have a motorized rescue boat and with the added activity on the water, Fire Chief Scott Manlow said there is a greater risk for increasing emergency assistance required. The department has four inflatable Fortuna boats purchased in 2005. These boats are self-propelled paddle devices. When the fire department receives a call for an emergency assistance on the water, fire dispatch gathers the information and sends out to the coordination fire station t the closest civic address of the emergency. The fire department will ten verify with OPP and request assistance of the marine unit. OPP then notifies the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre and request assistance from the Coast Guard and/or the Coast Guard Auxiliary and any other affiliated emergency response agencies.
Chief Manlow thanked council for supporting his request for a rescue boat.
In the 2017 capital budget $345,000.00 was approved to purchase a new tanker. In February, council approved the purchase of a tanker for $301,334 inclusive of HST realizing a savings of $ 43,666. The new boat will be purchased with the left over tanker savings.
Manlow said the TINGA boat performs extremely well in rough water conditions including on ice. He said it is able to transport 3400 lbs of equipment and provides a safe working platform for rescuers. The design of the boat allows it to be utilized in the cold weather conditions in conjunction with the Fortuna rescue crafts The TINGA boat has an aluminum floor, tunnel hall design and a large floor space.
The expected delivery time for the TINGA boat is approximately six to eight weeks.