Algonquin Highlands begins office expansion
By Chad Ingram
Algonquin Highlands councillors took preliminary steps toward an expansion of the township office on North Shore Road during a Sept. 17 meeting.
For years it’s been mentioned that the office, constructed in 1990, is becoming crowded for the township staff who work there, including the township’s chief administrative officer, planner, treasurer, chief building officer and various other senior staff members and administrative personnel.
The building is also home to council chambers.
Option 1 is the more open-concept of the two.
“We basically took the width of the building and extended it,” Diamond said. The flow-through creates much more openness.”
That option requires the demolition of an existing staircase and would configure the offices of the two departments most visited by the public – planning and building – near the front entranceway.
Also, new in the Ontario building code is what Diamond referred to as a “universal washroom,” a unisex facility that would include a barrier-free, accessible toilet stall, a larger turning radius for wheelchairs and the inclusion of an “adult change table,” which Diamond described as a bed-like structure that may be required for visitors with caregivers.
If not a unisex washroom, Diamond said the building code would demand modern, barrier-free accessible stalls for both a male and female washroom.
“I’m glad to hear the majority of staff like Option 1, that would certainly be my choice,” Danielsen said, though she questioned whether the redesign provided enough relief in the central administrative area, where a number of employees have their desks.
“I think Option 2 looks like an addition,” Moffatt said, also emphasizing she preferred the planner’s office to be near the front door, instead of at the end of the new hall proposed in Option 2. “I don’t like the idea of the public having a peek in everybody’s office as they go to meet the planner.”
“I like saving money on the stairs,” he said. “That works for me.”
Lynch said he also liked the Muskoka/Haliburton timber-frame detailing around the entranceway in the second option.
The estimated cost for Option 2 was about $12,000 less than the estimate for Option 1, due the removal of stairs the latter would entail.
The estimate for Option 1 was $503,000 and for Option 2, $491,000, exclusive of HST.
That would leave a balance of less than $150,000 to be financed, which McKelvey said could be paid off in less than five years.
Last week, councillors heard from AECOM architect Arthur Diamond, who presented them with with two options for the expansion of the building.
Most staff members had preferred Option 1, as did Deputy-reeve Liz Danielsen.
Treasurer Tammy McKelvey said some pieces of equipment now kept in that area would be moved to new homes in the expanded building, providing more space. She also said the configuration would mean less traffic through that area.
Reeve Carol Moffatt thought Option 2, which would create a new hallway with offices at one side of the building, was too segmented.
Councillor Brian Lynch preferred Option 2 as it included the existing staircase that would be demolished and replaced in Option 1.
Both designs incorporated a pillared overhang above the front entranceway.
Lynch was outnumbered, most councillors preferring Option 1 and reasoning its benefits outweighed the relatively small cost savings provided by Option 2.
McKelvey had drawn up financing options for an estimated potential cost of $525,000. In that model, $312,000 would come from the township’s office reserve, another $32,500 from accessibility funding the township has received. It also showed $10,000 from an accessibility reserve, and some $21,000 from the 2015 levy allocated for office addition consulting fees and office accessibility projects.
Councillors resolved that AECOM produce documentation required for the issuance of tenders, to be brought back to council at its next meeting.