New Brunswick

Province will not act unilaterally to move Moncton Public Library

The debate over moving the Moncton Public Library from its downtown location on Main Street to the former Moncton High School building continues, but it is now clear that it won't happen without the support of the city.

Minister Roger Melanson says province won't move library on its own despite demand by MLA Chris Collins

This artist rendering from the community group MH Renaissance Inc. shows what the old Moncton High School could look like as a cultural centre including the Moncton Public Library. (Suzanne LaPointe/CBC)

The debate over moving the Moncton Public Library from its downtown location on Main Street to the former Moncton High School building continues, but it is now clear that it won't happen without the support of the city.

Earlier this month, Moncton Centre MLA Chris Collins suggested the province could make a unilateral move to save the old Moncton High School, by moving the provincial portion of the public library and it's annual budget of $331,000 to the new proposed location.

This is not a decision we can make unilaterally as a province but if the people of Moncton want to move the library, then the city first has a responsibility to tell us that's what they want to do.- Minister Roger Melanson

"Yes, the province can — the regional portion of that library — there's no reason why we can't look at moving that and de–coupling so I think that's one option," Collins told Information Morning Moncton.

Moncton Centre MLA Chris Collins supports a plan to move the Moncton Public Library to the old Moncton High School. (CBC)
Collins argued the City of Moncton would eventually follow the lead of the province, saying he didn't expect the city would end up with two libraries.

"I think it's time for the provincial government to step up, make the right decisions on this building and save a piece of heritage."

However, Roger Melanson, New Brunswick's minister of transportation and infrastructure, said in a statement the province has no intention of moving forward alone.

"This is not a decision we can make unilaterally as a province but if the people of Moncton want to move the library, then the city first has a responsibility to tell us that's what they want to do," Melanson said.

"I can only imagine we would support such a move if the city came forward with that request," the minister said.

City not in a rush

Moncton city manager Jacques Dubé responded by saying that while Moncton city council is on record as wanting to save the old Moncton High School, no decision will be made on the proposal to move the library until the business plan has been reviewed.

"We would like to see this business case analysis completed by year-end so that the respective governing bodies can then make decisions and have the repurposed building opened in 2018," Dubé said.

Jacques Dubé served as city manager for nine years before announcing his resignation in August. (CBC)
Dubé added that discussions with the provincial government, the library board and staff, the library's current landlord and the proponents of the plan to move the library to the old Moncton High School are ongoing.

"The Province of New Brunswick, as the owner of the heritage building, has made it clear to Moncton city council that it expects the city to play a role in a new use for MHS. Though that exact function remains unclear at this time, it will be a decision of the incoming city council."

Dubé promises a formal public consultation process will be undertaken before any final decision is made.

The proposal from the non-profit group MH Renaissance Inc. to transform the 80-year-old school building into a cultural centre requires an anchor tenant and the group wants that tenant to be the public library.

Collins argues the time frame proposed by the city to make a decision is far too long and he worries that the plan will never move forward without a provincial commitment.

"That would give MH35 the tenants they need to make a business plan and pay the mortgage on the extensive renovations that are required to make that building a great place for the library."

with files from Information Morning Moncton

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