Corner Brook City Hall: what’s it really worth?

Two years after it was officially opened, Corner Brook’s new City Hall Complex is starting to assume its role as a focal point of activity in our community.

” The entire cost of the new City Hall was paid for almost exclusively by the provincial and federal governments with little or no direct cost born by the residents of Corner Brook.”

 

IMG_0968With its’ environmentally friendly design, the new City Hall also encompasses the Corner Brook Museum and Archives Heritage Building as well as the new Corner Brook Public Library, (both of which have seen tremendous increases in their visitors and patrons), and soon there will be a new Rotary Arts Centre in the basement.

Remembrance SquareAnother important aspect of the City Hall Complex is the redesign of Remembrance Square which was planned and built with the full support of the Royal Canadian Legion. With funds raised by the Forget me Not Campaign, the addition of the Caribou atop the Cenotaph and the two beautiful new statues on either side have helped transform Remembrance Square into a place of honour for those who have paid the supreme sacrifice as well as our veterans and our soldiers who continue to serve the world over.

The new City Hall has reinvigorated the Downtown area, drawn new traffic to area businesses and inspired local shop owners to invest in their own properties. So, what’s all that worth in real terms?

lobby City HAllThe tender cost for the entire complex including the construction of the new Corner Brook Public Library, the inclusion of the Corner Brook Museum and Archives and the redevelopment of Remembrance Square was $19.8 million (which included a margin for any cost overruns). I am told that construction was within budget.

The cost to purchase and “deconstruct” (take apart in an environmentally friendly manner) the former Corner Brook Co-Op Building was $ 1.1 million. Thus, the total project cost was a little less than $21 million. But it seems that many people are still not clear on who paid this $21 million?

“The province has paid $15 million and will contribute another almost $4.5 million over 20 years. The Federal government has contributed $900 000 in green funds.”

City Hall Council Chambers

In 2007, a new provincial-municipal funding agreement increased the provincial governments contributions to 70% of approved projects. In the case of the City Hall project, the province felt that “Corner Brook was a city on the move” and that a new ‘green’ City Hall was needed. As such, the province agreed to contribute $15 million towards construction. (This was not money that could be had for any other work in the city, we already had our allotment for roads, water, sewer and such, this was a special project and was funded by the province as a one time contribution).

inSightsCoverWith the support of the NL Libraries Board, the provincial government also entered into an agreement to pay the City an annual lease for the 11 000 square feet of new space built for the Corner Brook Public Library for a total of almost $4.5 million over the life of the 20 year agreement.

In addition to the province’s substantial contribution, the Federal Government also contributed almost $ 900 000 towards the ‘green’ features in the building, including upgrades to support the rooftop garden, rain water recycling, and the Windows on the World (WOW) energy efficiency monitoring technology.

(The federal government also contributed a separate $ 2 million to the city for ‘public transit initiatives”, a portion of which was used to pay for the total cost of the new Corner Brook Transit terminus on Park Street and other improvements, and finally some federal gas tax money was also used for minor road improvements around Park and Main Street.)

Proceeds from the sale of the Old City Hall (Less than $300 000) were also intended to go towards the cost of the new City Hall Complex and there was also the possibility of generating revenues by leasing space in the basement as a way of helping to pay for the new building if needed. (I am pleased to note that given the fact that the Rotary Arts Centre will be located in this space free of charge, it would appear that leasing this space was not required to offset the cost of the new City Hall.)

As Mayor, I had maintained from the very beginning that we would spend no more than between $4 million and $6 million for a new City Hall and that it’s construction would not lead to increases in city taxes.

The province has paid $15 million and will contribute another almost $ 4.5 million over 20 years. The Federal government has contributed $ 900 000 in green funds, as well as gas tax monies and has paid the cost of the transit terminus. The sale of the Old City Hall adds another almost $ 300 000.

In other words, the entire cost of the new City Hall was paid for almost exclusively by the provincial and federal governments with little or no direct cost born by the residents of Corner Brook. There were no major cost overruns as predicted nor did city taxes increase to pay for it.

So, what did the City Hall Project cost? Almost $ 21 million.

What did the residents of Corner Brook pay for it? Close to $ 0

What’s it worth to our community? I’ll leave that up you to decide.

3 thoughts on “Corner Brook City Hall: what’s it really worth?

  1. Good piece. So if it is not city hall, do you have any insight as to why corner brook taxes are up about 40 percent in the last 4 years? This is the largest increase in the province and I believe the largest dollar increase in city history? I think the tax outlook for the next four years and what happened in the last four years needs to be a core election issue. Tax increases each and every year is not appropriate.

    The other issues from my perspective are ensuring tranparency and accountabilty in decision making (this was severely missing) and economic development ( did not seem to be a focus of this administration either).

    I would be curious to see what you see as the top 3 issues at some point.

    • Thanks for your comments. I too am curious as to why taxes have gone up much more than was anticipated when we submitted out 10 year plan so that the current budget is about $ 3 million more than expected just 4 years ago.

      As you point out CB has seen huge increases in overall taxation with the municipal budget jumping from $ 24 million to $ 32 million in 4 short years with little explanation or accounting for these increases.

      There has been very little economic development activity over the past 4 years, no new residential subdivisions to encourage new home building and no plans for future growth that anyone can see, all of which have left many people wondering just exactly how much more current residents and businesses can continue to pay.

  2. even though leasing this space was not required to offset the cost the rotary art centre should not get this space for free.

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