Thursday, February 5, 2009

City Hall Doings and No Radio Days

Marching on to a Move-in date

Sometime in mid-March; that’ll be the day. After months of catch-up work and years of delays, it seems that city workers will finally be able to move into their new digs in a finished civic administrations building just before the start of spring. This message was from Hans Loewig, Chief administrative Officer for the city, was post on the Ward 5 blog: “I’m pleased to be in touch with good news this morning about the completion of City Hall and our move-in schedule.

“Resulting from a thorough inventory of work that remained after Urbacon’s termination, the City’s general contractor estimates that City Hall will be substantially complete by the end of March 2009. Departmental move-ins are being scheduled to take place even earlier in mid-March.”

According to a report, about $2.4 million in work remained when Alberici Constructors Ltd. took over for old contractors Urbacon last fall. Further, it has cost the city another $500,000 to fix deficiencies apparently noticed by the architect but ignored as construction of the building struggled to proceed. Overall all though, this is good news for city staff, some of whom have been without permanent quarters since the completion deadline was missed, again, last November.


So with the new city hall seemingly on track, the attention of council now turns to the question of what’s to be done with the current city hall building. Now, the current and future-former city hall is a heritage building and an important piece of Ontario history, so you can’t just tear it down and build a Tim Hortons. When construction on the new city hall began many moons ago, it was the decision of the council at the time to turn the old building into a new municipal courthouse. It’s a possibility, but the Mayor says not so fast. “We have to understand the rationale of why that use was chosen for this building,” said Karen Farbridge.

Former councillor Cathy Downer chaired the committee that reached the decision to convert the current city hall into a courthouse post-move. Part of the rationale had to do with the fact that the city hall building was found to be an “ideal size and an ideal set-up inside” for a courthouse, according to provincial requirements for court space. Downer said that sticking to the plan and restoring city hall into a courthouse would mean restoring a lot of original features now hidden behind false ceilings, she said. It would be an opportunity to “bring back the lovely big rooms of the city hall.”

Currently court space is being leased on the second floor of Old Quebec Street, but nobody likes that idea as a permanent solution. Meanwhile, there’s been discussion about making city hall the site of the new library or arts centre. Considering the contract for the conversion was with the aforementioned Urbacon, it seems a proverbial can of worms has been opened up about the fate of what will soon be called the old city hall. Stay tuned.

No new radio for Guelph

Guelph listeners hoping for a little spice in their radio options had their hopes dashed last week when the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) said thanks, but no thanks, to three applications for new stations in the Royal City. Three groups: Blackburn Radio Inc., Frank Torres of Skywords/DAWG FM, and Guelph Broadcasting Corporation all filed applications last year to start a new FM station in the city. A fourth application for AM station CJOY, owned by Corus Entertainment, to move to the FM dial, was also up for consideration. But all applications were denied unfortunately. The CRTC said that in the current economy it just isn’t feasible for Guelph to support a new, local radio station.

"We're surprised that we would go through the entire process of the hearings, just to have the commission say they would issue no licences at all," said Frank Torres, president of Skywords/DAWG FM, he was surprised by the unanimous thumbs down. "From what I've seen so far, their decision is based on the economic downturn that has taken place subsequent to the initial application." John Weese of Blackburn Radio Inc. added, "We certainly trust our own behaviour and our own business ability to be able to go in there and make a go of it."

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