Nova Scotia

CBRM council votes down funding for new library design study

Cape Breton regional councillors defeated a motion to pay for part of a design study on a proposed $32-million new library on the Sydney waterfront. Despite the vote, they say the project might still go ahead.

In a 10-3 vote, CBRM councillors say the estimated cost of the Sydney waterfront location is too high

Harbour Royale Development proposed a $32-million library for Sydney's waterfront, but CBRM council voted down a design study, saying the cost was too high. (Harbour Royale Development Ltd.)

An estimated $32-million library on the Sydney waterfront has proven to be too rich for Cape Breton Regional Municipality's council.

In a 10-3 vote, councillors defeated a motion to pay for part of a design study that would have firmed up the cost of the building and found possible funding sources.

But despite the vote, CBRM councillors say the project might still go ahead.

Coun. Darren Bruckschwaiger was one of the councillors who voted against paying one third of the estimated $1.5 million toward a design study.

He said CBRM cannot afford to pay its share of the estimated $32-million building price and the increased operating cost that would go along with it.

Coun. Darren Bruckschwaiger says the estimated cost of the library could be as high as $40 million, and that could push CBRM's contribution up to $12 million. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

But Bruckschwaiger said that does not mean the waterfront library proposal is dead.

"I don't think it is at this point," he said following a nearly four-hour meeting on the topic. "I think the mayor plans on, along with staff, to meet with provincial and federal partners to see what the new [funding] programs look like."

Mayor Amanda McDougall, who also voted against paying for a design study, said it's not yet clear what government funding programs will be available to build the library, and in the meantime, there may be ways to cut down the cost.

"Nothing is dead in the water," she said. "We just need to find a way that we can afford to go forward with this.

"Clearly, from the discussion today and the decision around the table, we have to look at some better ways to use our money."

Only councillors Eldon MacDonald, Steve Parsons and James Edwards voted in favour of funding the design study.

CBRM has previously committed $7 million toward the project: $4 million in cash and $3 million as the estimated value of the waterfront land.

Council was told land values are not usually considered as part of a capital contribution when it comes to federal or provincial funding.

'We're spinning our wheels'

Bruckschwaiger said with the skyrocketing cost of building materials because of the pandemic, the estimated cost of the library could be as high as $40 million, and that could push CBRM's contribution up to $12 million.

Parsons said even if the municipality considers a cheaper library building, the design study is needed to determine the actual cost, which will be needed to apply for funding from other levels of government.

He said the design study will determine whether CBRM can afford its share of the cost.

"If we don't do that, we're spinning our wheels," he said.

"We'll never get a commitment because we don't know what we're asking for."

Last year, Marty Chernin said he would no longer do any business in CBRM and this week, said he is not one of the new bidders looking to develop Sydney's waterfront property. (Brent Kelloway/CBC)

CBRM gave Harbour Royale Developments an exclusive deal to build the library on CBRM land on the waterfront, next to land where Harbour Royale plans to build an apartment and commercial building.

Marty Chernin, president of Harbour Royale Developments, said CBRM has been trying to build a new library for 10 years and he is disappointed with the council decision.

"It's another setback and we'll have to try and keep forging forward and hopefully we can get it on track," he said.

The deal with Harbour Royale expires in June.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Ayers

Reporter/Editor

Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for 36 years. He has spent half of them covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at tom.ayers@cbc.ca.

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