Council gives go ahead for Picton Library expansion project

Picton Branch of the Prince Edward County Public Library. (Desirée Decoste/Gazette Staff)


The green light for the Picton Library branch expansion has been lit.

Prince Edward County Council unanimously approved the request to expand the Picton Library and accept the tender for renovation at its meeting Tuesday night.

The project was held up last fall after Council had some reservations over projected costs versus what was in the budget and what had been raised but since Sept. 2019 when Prince Edward County Library Board members first made their deputation to Council, there has been no additional costs to project and funds have continued to roll in.

Sandy Murray, chair of the library finance committee, announced that the project is 100 per cent fully funded and that 82 per cent of the fundraising goal has been raised. 

Given another year to fundraise and with projected costs remaining static, supporters of the expansion have come through with flying colours to help make the dream of expanding the Carnegie-era library a reality.

Mayor of Prince Edward County Steve Ferguson. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

“We have all the faith in the world. We look forward to hearing about and seeing the results. Thank you for your hard work,” Mayor Ferguson praised.

The St. Jean-MacMahon motion was approved, providing that the Library board provide Council staff with quarterly progress reports. 

Anne Preston, County Kids Reads representative, congratulated the PEC Library Board members and council for ticking the last box needed to move the project into its final phase.

“I’m feeling like I should open some champagne! There is no need to speak. As the representative of County Kids Reads, as you know children and literacy are the mandated mission of what we do and I congratulate Council on passing this motion,” Preston happily stated.

The addition to the original building would take the Picton Library to 13,000 square feet at a total budget of $2,732,260 – a slight increase from the original Sept. 2019 deputation. The tender offered by K. Knudsen Construction Ltd., who is known for the newly-renovated Picton Armoury building, covers $2,325,280. Knudsen told PEC Library members that the tender would not hold much beyond the end of November, 2020.

“After the presentation to Council in 2019, Council asked us to review our plans and come back with a plan to build a building for $2 million. Subsequent to the meeting, the board did its due diligence and very carefully considered all options and reviewed all of the consultant’s reports,” Murray explained.

Because the library addition needs to reach out over the escarpment behind the original structure, Murray explained, the design had been done to try to anticipate and mitigate any potential instability issues with the foundation prior to the shovel hitting the ground. This has added additional costs to the building.

He continued by explaining that the costs of returning to the concept and design phase would add an excess of $100,000 in professional fees plus costs associated with re-tendering and starting a new application.  

“This all points to one conclusion: the building cannot be made smaller and still serve the community need. Which is why the board came to the conclusion that the best course of action is to proceed with the project as presented and raise the necessary funds,” he said.

Murray also publicly announced that thanks to a short-fall pledge made by Michael Hymus to incur outstanding costs up to $480,000, the library expansion project is 100% fully funded.

Once the tender is awarded, Knudsen would begin negotiations with suppliers, who have already committed to providing in-kind donations to the project,” he continued. 

Murray touched on the October 2020 Report by the Canadian Urban Institute, ‘In It Together: Bringing Back Canadian Main Streets,’ which assessed how small businesses have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The report, he said, noted “libraries are a main street ‘anchor,’ a community hub, free, open to all, a safe place, important to the life and health of the communities they serve.”

The Picton branch, he stated, allows full service at the County’s six branches of libraries throughout Prince Edward County, and found creative ways to serve the community during the pandemic through online programming, access to technical support and curb-side pickup options.

“We have met all of Council’s concerns and believe this is the right time and place for this project for a growing community,” he said.

Coun. Bailey expressed concerns in regard to costs, asking that this project not cost taxpayers any additional money or create any burden on the municipality should pledges or costs not come through. He referenced the Royal Ontario Museum, which was meant to receive a pledge of $30 million in the past, and the Lehigh Arena in Wellington that also never received moneys pledged. 

Murray assured pledges will come though when the construction begins.

Coun. Roberts announced his support to the project, touching on the extensive community support the library system offers, reaching over 15,000 people a year attending programming and taking advantage of the free equipment and resources.

Bill McMahon. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

“I found it very convincing to read the letters, emails and listen to the voicemail messages of our County frontline workers. We heard from real frontline workers stakeholders and they supported this library build. They were police officers, church leaders, social and healthcare workers, educators, business leaders, BIA leaders. There were even food banks, strongly, strongly in support of this built,” Roberts noted. “They get that an exceptional library is in many ways the last free democratic space that the County has and that it is essential to our socioeconomic potential going forward, so it certainly has my support.”

Prince Edward County Library members heard support from several other councillors who praised the hard work and dedication on this project. 

“We have a property that is owned by the County. Next week or next month, this Carnegie library will be 113 years old. We’re asking the people here to deliver 20th century technology in almost a 19th century building,” Coun. MacMahon remarked. “The people have stepped forward. County wide, people are behind it. It is not just a centric Picton project.”

Coun. Forrester asked about any green initiatives that will take place in the proposed library build, saying that he believes the library will be a centrepiece of the County for years to come and should lead by example moving forward.

Jones responded that there is a green wall that will enhance the air quality and the HVAC system will be replaced to be energy efficient. In the midst of her response, laughter filled the Lehigh Arena as Jones received an email from an anonymous donor who said the solar panels are covered. 

After a vote, Mayor Ferguson and all councillors relayed their support for the library expansion. 

“Throughout Prince Edward County, including Picton, we are seeing a considerable amount of new development. The hope is we are going to be attracting new residents, young families all of whom will are going to need the services that an enhanced library will be able to provide. We also have to remember that the library services are geared and available to everybody – regardless of income or status and that is very important to bear in mind.”

“The importance of the library to our community cannot be underestimated, but I do want to say that the library board has done a fabulous job in thinking this through and doing so in a respectful way. It seems to me that with the additional funding, they have now ticked all the boxes to move this project forward and I am very much in support of ticking the last box, which is giving them the approval to do so,” Ferguson said. 

Below are just three of dozens of Letters of Support sent by members of the public to Council in the past months:

PEC Community Care for Seniors

“The Prince Edward County Community Care for Seniors Association offers this as a letter of support for the expansion of the Picton Branch of the Library. Prince Edward County is the second oldest Census Division in Ontario and is sixth oldest in Canada. With such a high proportion of seniors in Prince Edward County it is essential that this be a community that has a focus on addressing social isolation and working together to meet the needs of seniors. This is even more important during the pandemic. We support the Vision Statement of the Library which is: ‘The library serves as a gathering place for learning, creation, collaboration, personal development and inspiration.’ Our two organizations have worked closely over the years to serve the needs of the citizens of Prince Edward County. Our collaboration has become essential during COVID-19. Currently Community Care delivers library books to seniors 60+ who are patrons of the Library. We know that the Library space, especially in the historic Picton Branch, has tight space and washrooms that are much too small to easily ensure patrons are safe.”

David Simmonds, President of the Friends of the Wellington Branch, also wrote a letter of support, stating that the growth of the Picton branch would in turn benefit the Wellington location.

“The fact that our principal aim is to secure the viability of the Wellington branch has led us to make two grants in support of the proposed expansion of the Picton branch. We see this as an investment that will strengthen the capacity of all County library branches. The library operates as a single system with services delivered through all branches,” he explained in the letter. “For instance, a book stored in Picton can be requisitioned – by computer or by phone or in person – for pickup in Ameliasburgh. The number one goal in the library’s strategic plan is to ‘Develop branches to accommodate community needs as they grow and change.’ The Wellington branch will not be adversely affected by the Picton expansion. Indeed, the expansion will help reduce the strain on Wellington’s facilities. The Picton library branch is long overdue for renovation to bring it up to standard and at the same time build the capacity to address future needs.”

Among several letters of support from community members, Ron and Janet Aston of North Marysburgh touched on the positive change the expansion would bring to Picton Main Street.

“All through the pandemic our libraries have found a way to provide services to residents. Despite the pandemic, the library expansion fundraising committee has continued to receive donations from committed supporters from throughout Prince Edward County,” the letter stated. “Knudsen Construction of Belleville, who submitted the tender for this project, has greed to hold the tender price until the end of November. It’s time to get this project started. By consenting to begin work on this important civic infrastructure project, Council would not only be making desperately needed improvements to Picton library, but also giving a rejuvenating post-pandemic boost to Main Street.”