Blind River’s tourist information centre, located as you enter the town heading west, will be upgraded for about $250,000, council decided at its virtual special meeting Monday.

Upgrades to the building, which has been discussed in the past five years by council, was finally approved at Monday’s meeting and will take place this year. The resolution to do the work sparked considerable discussion by councillors before getting a 6 to 1 vote to do the work.

It was part of an asset management plan being considered by council of its 20 municipal buildings and discussed at the special meeting. Some of the figures are based on an overall report from Tulloch Engineering on the state of municipal buildings and work needed over a 10-year period.

The engineering firm has inspected all the town owned facilities and offered cost of work on each.

Councillor Jim Dunbar wanted to know whether the $250,000 upgrade cost was based over the whole 10-year plan proposed by Tulloch.

The town has received information that upgrading of the building would be about $150,000 and another previous estimate council received was for a $130,000 upgrade to replace the roof, windows, siding and insulation to bring the building with newer upgrades to current standards.

Town CAO/Clerk Katie Scott said the cost increase is due to increased material costs due to COVID-19 that caused steep increases in building materials.

“This proposal would be to complete the tourist information centre in 2021,” Scott said.

Coun. Steven Wells noted the previous council had initially received an estimate to do the work at $130,000 and the $150,000 estimated by Tulloch was a concern.

“We’re looking at a $100,000 increase,” he said. “It’s nice to have a presence as people come into town. I am aware we’re renting space in the building, but I am struggling a little bit with the $150,000.”

Treasurer Sue Dent said the original estimate for the work was $241,000 in 2019.

Scott said the costs for the upgrade would only go up the longer it takes to do the work.

Coun. Betty Ann Dunbar said maybe the total cost could be split between with work on other buildings, although she agreed with the overall upgrade.

“I don’t know why we have to address everything in one year,” she said of a total upgrade of the centre this year.

“We can pick apart whatever we want to do…but the thought was to complete one project and have it operational,” Scott said if council decided to divide the work over a longer period.

Coun. Jennifer Posteraro said people have been advocating to have the upgrades done and the work has been in the budget for a three-year project.

“People have been advocating to have this building brought up to par,” the councillor said.

Coun. Jim Dunbar agreed discussion for work on the building has been going on for some time and has even included council considering “divesting ourselves of this building.”

Scott said the added cost is to make the improvements with materials that will be long lasting.

“I think we might as well get it done,” Coun. HP Roy said, noting he was not a prior supporter of keeping the building. “With this work our life expectancy will be 20, 30 years. It will basically be a new building… we should get it done and have a new building.”

Mayor Hagman has advocated council sell the property.

She was the lone council member to oppose the work in the 6-1 vote to approve it.

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