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Library Square takes another step forward with budget approval

January 2, 2020   ·   0 Comments

The development of Library Square took a significant step forward at the last Council meeting of 2019, with local lawmakers signing off on the budget to make it a reality.

Council gave the green light to an increased budget of nearly $52 million, with a few conditions attached to their approval: tendering on the project can only go forward if the final costs of the tender remains within a maximum of 5 per cent of the figures approved on December 17, and that staff report back on the status of grant applications before the final tender is awarded.

The approval followed a lively debate over financing and the timing of the project, as well as a presentation from Robin McDougall, Aurora’s Director of Community Services, on some of the aesthetic and technical changes made to designs since they were last before Council to contain the budget figures.

Ahead of the approval, proceedings received some pointed criticism from Councillor John Gallo on the timing of the project. Over the course of the debate, Councillor Gallo sought assurances that Council’s pre-Christmas approval of going out to tender would not impact any grants, which could fund more than $30 million of the Library Square development, going forward.

“For those who know me, and while it may not sound this way, I am a huge proponent of the humanities and the arts and everything that this project stands for,” said Councillor Gallo. “I have been since the Cultural Centre, the new things the Library is doing, they are really phenomenal and it is a huge part of my life. I want to get it right and I want to do everything I possibly can to get it right and do right by the Town.”

Responding to the comments, Mayor Tom Mrakas said debate around the table is what is “needed” and “expected of each and every one of us sitting at this table.”

“That is what this project needs: for each of us to challenge every step of the way to make sure what we’re doing is right and I think what we’re doing is right,” said Mayor Mrakas. “To me, this is an exciting time, this is another step, and it has been a long time coming.”

He went on to cite more than 20 years of consultations and public input sessions logged to get to this point, while also mentioning the work of the last Council, which approved the motion he put forward with Councillor Michael Thompson, to increase focus on redeveloping an area of downtown called Aurora’s “cultural precinct” with an aim towards revitalization.

“I am proud…we’re taking this next step,” he continued. “It is going to be that much more exciting when we award the tender. As I said before, my promise is I can’t guarantee that the Province is going to give us that funding, but what I can guarantee to the residents of this community and this Council is I am going to worked my damned hardest to ensure the Province understands the importance of this project to this municipality, to this Region, and I can tell you they’re excited about it. The Minister is excited about it, the Premier is excited about it… this is an exciting project moving forward. Everything points to this going to happen. We’re all excited about it and I am proud of each and every one of us for taking this step.”

Similar enthusiasm was offered by the balance of Council, including Councillor Thompson who said revitalization of the Downtown Core has been a “key objective” for every term of Council in recent memory.

“We have all had different thoughts and ideas of how to go about it,” he said. “I believe that the majority, if not all members of Council, feel that this could very well be a significant catalyst to helping the revitalization of downtown, but it is not just the only step, we continue to look and explore other avenues and opportunities in which to continue to build up our downtown and create a gathering place, as we have talked about for many years.”

Councillor Harold Kim said he has watched “this four-year journey” carefully and expressed his appreciation for his fellow Council members who have “contributed” to the discussion.

“In the end, I believe iron sharpens iron and…regardless of some of the comments made around the table…you help to sharpen our own opinions and, in fact, change our opinions, whether they be right there on the spot or in between meetings,” he said. “I just want to thank everyone. Even though we have disagreements, we have a common goal [to] do this right.”

Added Councillor Sandra Humfryes: “We have talked about revitalizing the Downtown for so long and…we’re finally doing it. This is the part where it is actually going to get done. It’s tough, it’s a lot of money, but we have the funds there for something spectacular and special. I really believe that if you have the vision, this is more than worth it.”

Similarly, Councillor Rachel Gilliland said she’s encouraged by the interest the Province has shown in the Library Square project, as well as the “excitement” she has heard from residents of the community.

“This project alone just shows that we are willing to invest in our Town and we are proud of our Town,” she said. “This is a step in the right direction and we are investing in the people today. I think it is important that all the residents have something we can all enjoy through arts and culture and revitalization. This project really does put Aurora on the map and put this in a positive direction of revitalizing our downtown core, which is really what I think this term and this Council really wants to focus on. This is a historic moment and I think we should all be really proud of the outcome and where we started.”

Councillor Wendy Gaertner was absent from the meeting.

By Brock Weir



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