- by Anne Finlay-Stewart, Editor

Slightly behind schedule but still on budget is the short version but hardly the whole story of the Owen Sound city hall renovation.

Years – nay, decades – of delay in mitigating the follies of the sixties – single-pane windows, asbestos, no cityhalltourinsulation, inaccessible multi-levels – were the result of councillors too cowardly to face realities with the taxpayers. Eventually virtually every system – mechanical, heating, cooling – even the alarm system, had failed or was at imminent risk of failing. The council chamber and offices could be uncomfortably cool or brutally hot. By the time staff moved out of the building, the air quality was so poor they could not put on the heating system so as not to circulate the contaminants.

This council bit the bullet and started the job, choosing to reject the opportunity to demolish and rebuild for the thriftier $8.7 million "gut and renovate"option.

In the process of maximizing space in the sand-filled crawlspace in the north end, they had to remove rubblesome remains of the earlier city hall that met its end in a fire in 1961. They also discovered that the footings of that part of the building were not as deep as the original drawings indicated, so a new foundation had to be poured. That newly-available 3800 square foot space will now be used for the mechanicals, electrical, vault, and file storage.

On the main floor, even inner offices will have natural light through glass walls. Departments will return to city hall from other buildings.  Air circulation, accessibility and security will all improve. Both staff and public spaces have been designed for better flow and use of space.

The building will finally meet some essential 21st century criteria; the washrooms, entrances and elevators will be accessible, the walls and windows will provide both insulation and fresh air, the building will be much more energy efficient and secure.

The new glass-walled public spaces outside the council chamber will showcase our city with views towards the harbour and the river. Exterior masonry repair, landscaping, and the return of the outdoor public space and flagpoles will be the final work.

The substantial completion date has now been moved back to June 30, with staff moving back in later this summer, and there will be a public open house so you can see the improvements for yourself.


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