Some of the newly-elected Brownsburg-Chatham councillors were not happy and said so at the November 5 council meeting when they were asked to approve funding for soil tests in order for the municipality to move forward with a grant application. The application will be for funding to aid the municipality to relocate the library from its current location to the new Place du Citoyen, a multi-million-dollar project which will house multiple community services under one roof.
While the November 5 municipal election returned Catherine Trickey as mayor, a clean sweep took place with no returning councillors from the previous term. This meant that within 72 hours of being elected, new councillors were seated at a regular council table and were asked to approve proceeding with the soil tests required for the grant application.
Councillors Antoine Laurin and Stephen Rowland voted against the motion of going forward with the soil tests. Rowland stated that he did not have enough information about the subject and that he wasn’t able to make a clear decision. The council was sworn in 72 hours before the vote, leaving little time for new councillors to be up-to-date with the project. The soil tests needed to be approved in order not to lose the grant from the Ministry of Culture and Trickey needed support from council right away. Councillor Rowland not only questioned the need to rush council in making a decision but also questioned the need for the of project as a whole.
Mayor Trickey defended the need to rush the decision concerning the library during a telephone interview with The Review.
“Our library sits in a run-down arena and according to our population size, its square footage should be doubled. It has been 10 years that Brownsburg-Chatham was looking for a grant, so when the Ministry of Culture called, we wanted to move quickly as to not lose the opportunity to have the grant.”
The library is being planned as part of the new Place du Citoyen community complex, which will include a gymnasium, multi-function room, kitchen and, Trickey hopes, the new library. The Place du Citoyen received two thirds of its funding from the federal and provincial government for the recreational part of the project, but that funding did not include the library.
“The Ministry of Culture called right in the middle of the election period, so we decided to move forward with the project and add the soil test item to the agenda of the first council meeting after the election. The soil tests are just the first part of other studies which will take place concerning the library. The administration just didn’t want to lose the possibility of getting the project finally financed,”says Trickey.
As for Councillor Rowland, he would have appreciated if the decision could have been delayed, so as to ensure that new councillors would have the time to review and get acquainted with the project before being asked to vote.
“My point was to delay the item [soil tests], instead of forcing a three-day-old council to vote and have the city manager present the rationale or analysis about the project. Don’t get me wrong, free money is great, but the other half of that cost comes from taxpayers. I don’t like the lack of analysis, residents need to believe in such a project to pay for it. I don’t know, as of now, if we even need [Place du Citoyen],” said Rowland.
According to Rowland, Brownsburg-Chatham already has a debt of $19 million and its residents are taxed more than all the other municipalities within the Argenteuil RCM. He states that there are plenty of under-occupied gymnasiums and meeting rooms already in the community. He would like to see these amenities being booked before asking taxpayers to finance such a mega-project like the Place du Citoyen.
“We have empty meeting rooms and maybe we need extra rooms to meet the needs, but I just find that we need to study all of this. I don’t have answers, but I do have questions and I don’t like to be rushed in a decision. For all those reasons I was against making this quick decision,” said Rowland.
“The soil tests were done before the meeting, and the money was spent, we were asked to approve the soil tests but they were already done. The mayor and the city manager are not allowed to spend money like that without the approval of council. It’s a strange situation, I just hope the residents will be consulted on these subjects. Let’s have a project that makes sense for the people of Brownsburg-Chatham.”
Concerning Rowland’s opposition to the project, Mayor Trickey said that Rowland ran his campaign based on drastically lowering taxes.
“The government wants municipalities to regroup its services as much as possible. We might consider putting a satellite in Brownsburg of the Lachute library. We would keep the same existing employees but would have centralized upper management and purchasing systems. In other words, someone could go to Lachute to take out a book and bring it back in Brownsburg-Chatham. We are open to different options and we will have more studies in the future. We just have to make sure we profit from available grants for our community.” concluded Trickey.