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The approved tender of $637,925 for the public washroom construction and renovation at the Port Elgin Main Beach was a tough pill to swallow for many Saugeen Shores councillors during the January 8 council meeting.

Town staff sorted through five bids ranging from $1,095,000 to the approved $637,925, the cost of which will be covered through debt financing. Allen Hastings Limited is set to begin construction in the spring of 2018 with a commitment of completion prior to Canada Day.

Before the vote which saw Vice-Deputy Mayor Diane Huber and Councillor Don Matheson vote against (Deputy Mayor Luke Charbonneau was absent), there was talk about how the project could be so costly, as paid architects estimated the project at around $505,000.

Huber voiced surprise at the amount and asked if there was a way to insure that the cost of the build and the completion date.

Director or Community Services Jayne Jagelewski said that Town of Saugeen Shores staff was surprised as well at the cost and said that staff had gone back multiple times in a long process to bring the cost down.

Councillor John Rich asked Jagelewski how an architect could miss the mark by 13 percent.

“This is not the first project that has come in with escalated costs for a bidding process,” said the Director of Community Services who then cited the Dr. Earl Medical Centre in Port Elgin as a project that resulted in inflated costs.

“So you’re saying that because we live here, we pay extra to get these kinds of things built,” asked Rich.

Jagelewski replied that the Town is not necessarily suggesting that, but is “saying that that’s a trend we experience with projects that we’re doing in Community Services.”

Mayor Mike Smith said the inflated number is not an isolated event. “I question sometimes how do we end up here. This isn’t where we wanted to be, not at all I don't think.” The Mayor then laid out a future of being nearly $8 million in debt, the cost of which could be difficult for many who live in Saugeen Shores.

Councillor Mike Myatt said he spoke to the Port Elgin Beachers' Association and that they had listed renovations to the existing washroom as a priority for the past five years. “I believe we need to do something,” he said, while also admitting that the cost is a “tough pill to swallow”.

Huber suggested that if Saugeen Shores continues to add debt, at some point it will run out of debt room and wondered if it’s being used for the right reasons. “When is the conversation going to happen here about how we realize some revenue from the asset because the people using the asset should be contributing to some of the upgrades there.” The Vice-Deputy Mayor suggested that the burden shouldn’t rest solely on the Saugeen Shores taxpayer. “Quite frankly there’s a whole lot of people here that don’t use the beach... but we’re asking them to contribute,” she said.

Following the meeting in Council Chambers, Councillor Rich stated that he thought the whole thing was “absurd”.

“I think that people are taking advantage of us. I think that we’re being fleeced in a lot of ways. What I hear is if we don't accept this drawing as it is or accept this upgrade as it is, it’s going to cost us $800,000 next year. And I know we have to make that building accessible and we want to make sure it’s a good building for the residents, it’s a good building for tourists because tourists do bring in economic development,” said Rich, adding “I don't like the way it went today, I don't like it at all, I just think we’re being taken advantage of.”


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