In what Mayor Marg Isbester called a “huge move forward,” the Town Council of Greater Napanee voted to approve the purchase of 99 Advance Avenue in Napanee for a new workspace for Town staff. The decision came at the regularly-scheduled Council meeting on Tuesday, Jun. 28, 2022.
In his report to Council, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) John Pinsent recommended that Council approve the purchase of the property for a total of $5.8 million.
The building at 99 Advance Avenue is currently home to Maltby Centre, Family and Children’s Services of Frontenac, Lennox and Addington, as well as Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington Public Health Napanee. Those organizations will stay, becoming tenants of the Town of Napanee.
The rest of the building will be used to provide a more central workspace for Town staff, who are currently dispersed in various buildings across town. “Not only does the acquisition of 99 Advance Avenue represent an affordable option to a requirement to consolidate staff and modernize our operations, it represents a first step in rationalizing our real estate holdings,” wrote the CAO.
Built in 2008, the facility’s land and construction costs were $7.3 million. In the CAO’s report, Pinsent noted that the original architect anecdotally estimated the cost to construct a similar 28,000-square-foot building in 2022 would be $12 million.
With Council’s approval of the purchase of 99 Advance Avenue, Town staff were directed to fund the purchase as follows: $1 million from reserves from land sales, $1.5 million from a 10-year debenture, and $3.3 million borrowed from Town reserves to be repaid from further land sales. Pinsent also recommended that Council authorize the CAO and Clerk to perform all steps and execute all documents as required to effect the purchase.
The land sales mentioned as a funding source for this new purchase will take some time, which would see the town borrowing the payment from Town Reserves up front until the sales occur. The highest borrowing would be $3.3 million, with $1.4 million likely through 2023 and potentially into 2024.
“The move to 99 Advance will centralize the costs of administration, of buildings for the use of Town staff, and will eliminate some of the other costs, which include the lease of 41 Dundas Street West and the operating costs of 45 Commercial Court,” the CAO’s report explained.
The Town has recently completed a series of Building Condition Assessments (BCAs), and the CAO undertook a consolidation of these reports to highlight the required costs to refurbish all of these buildings to an acceptable standard. The state of the current building inventory is also highlighted in the recently completed asset management plan for the Town of Greater Napanee.
At present, the Town of Greater Napanee has an inventory of 21 buildings. Of those, Staff have identified eight to be sold to reduce capital rehabilitation costs.
“The focus of our efforts moving forward will be to further rationalize and update our inventory. We will do this to ensure that Town Hall is a viable option as a place for Council and a place for the community, a core asset in the downtown,” the CAO said in his report.
The topic of what to do with the town hall, a beautiful historic building in downtown Napanee, has become one of serious debate in Napanee, with some wanting it preserved as-is and others hoping to see it updated and used as a hub for community events and programming in the downtown. At the meeting, Deputy Mayor Max Kaiser stated, “We’re absolutely committed to keeping [Town Hall] long-term going forward, and it’ll become a usable public space in the not-too-distant future.”
Councillor Terry Richardson summed up the deal in his comments, which were echoed by Town staff and councillors alike, that the purchase of the new facility will not decrease the significance of Town Hall. “[99 Advance Avenue] is just simply an administrative building… It’s a building that houses the people we need to manage the Corporation. Town Hall will be the [place] where decisions are made on how the Corporation is going to be run – and will always be, hopefully for another 160 or 170 years… I think this is a good plan.”