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Stouffville council revisiting library/pool expansion
March 12, 2015
By Sandra Bolan

Your taxes are going up $63 per home assessed at $575,000.

The 3.95-per-cent increase includes 1 per cent to reserves, but no library expansion or around-the-clock fire protection in Ballantrae.

The expansion of the library and leisure centre was deferred for a year, while the move to 24/7 service at the Ballantrae fire hall will be re-evaluated in 2017.

Although a concept design for the expanded library/leisure centre was received by the former council, this council has directed staff to re-evaluate it and potentially come up with other options, which may include the second pool being constructed beside the Stouffville Clippers Complex, as was the plan when it was built.

The estimated cost of the project, by the architects, is $28.5 million. Of that, $18 million would have to be borrowed.

The cost is likely too low, the town’s acting chief administrative officer Marc Pourvahidi, told The Sun-Tribune Wednesday morning, noting in the past, architects have low-balled their cost estimates for projects.

Last week, council approved a 12.5-per-cent debt ceiling, which means the town can borrow a maximum of $16 million for all projects - combined.

“The public may not like it, but this is a very fiscally responsible council,” Mayor Justin Altmann told The Sun-Tribune during a break in deliberations Tuesday.

“All we know is that it’s postponed and they apparently do not want the current design. What it means beyond that is anyone’s guess,” Carolyn Nordheimer James, Whitchurch-Stouffville Public Library CAO told The Sun-Tribune.

“We don’t know whether going forward now the decision is going to be for a separate two-storey library or an expansion of the current library,” she said.

Senior and former councillor Wilf Morley is disappointed it will likely be four and not three years before the 55+ Club gets a permanent place to call their own, but he understands the decision.

“Another year is better than going deep in debt they can’t afford,” Morley said.

The 55+ Club has about 450 members and operates out of Latcham Hall, which he said, is not working out as well as they hoped.

Status quo for the Ballantrae fire hall did not sit well with the Whitchurch-Stouffville Professional Firefighters Association.

“Our concerns for both public and firefighter safety have fallen on deaf ears and we have been made out to look like the bad guys for bringing our very valid concerns forward. The members of the WSPFFA are true professionals and will continue to provide the best possible service to all the residents of the Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville,” Dan Bell, president of the association wrote in a letter to The Sun-Tribune.

Fire Chief Rob McKenzie told The Sun-Tribune via email, “Although we were hopeful, I understand and respect council’s decision on the matter.”

In explaining his decision to vote against the fire hall providing 24/7 coverage, Councillor Maurice Smith noted Tuesday that a 24-hour EMS response station will be constructed adjacent the fire hall by 2020.

Another response station, near Woodbine Avenue and Stouffville Road, will become operational in 2017, he said.

York Region provides EMS.

Last month, the Ward 2 councillor told The Sun-Tribune he did not lobby for 24/7 firefighting in Ballantrae during his two election campaigns, but instead, around-the-clock EMS.

“Many people construed that to be 24/7 fire,” Smith said last month. “That’s not been my intention all along.”

“I’ve gone through two campaigns with an item on my platform being 24/7 EMS service,” he said last month.

Local media stories from 2010 have Smith calling for 24/7 services for the Ballantrae fire hall, but not specifically EMS service.

In 2014, the Whitchurch-Stouffville fire department responded to 1,257 calls, with 583 of them being medical related, according to the 2015 budget.

“So the question becomes, do you want an EMS for your medical call or a fire truck,” Smith last month.

The call for firefighting is “minimal” overnight, Pourvahidi told The Sun-Tribune yesterday, adding the number of calls in 2014 between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., when volunteers are on duty, were “less than a handful.”

The 2015 budget also included $20,000 to clear all urban sidewalks after a major snow event that results in an accumulation of at least 10 cm. This breaks down to $5,000 per snow event.  

Councillors also increased their public relations budget by $20,000 from $50,000 to $70,000 “because this council is keen on doing more communication,” Pourvahidi told The Sun-Tribune, noting higher postage rates was a contributing factor.

The Latcham Gallery received an additional $30,000 for programming. The original request was for $127,000.

BY THE NUMBERS *town portion only

Aurora: 4.9%
Richmond Hill: 4.2%
Georgina: 3.99%
East Gwillimbury: 3.95%
Whitchurch-Stouffville: 3.95%
Newmarket: 3.5%
Markham: 2.98%
King: 2.97%
Vaughan: 2.5%