A significant expansion of Baie-d’Urfé’s iconic town hall along Lakeshore Rd. is being proposed by council, although the green light from citizens is paramount for the project to proceed, Mayor Maria Tutino says.
The proposed extension and renovation of town hall, a former cottage that dates to 1895, will cost an estimated $650,000.
The town, which has accumulated an ample surplus in recent years, could move on this project without requiring any major new taxation, the mayor said, adding the town of about 4,000 people enjoys the lowest residential mill rate on the Island of Montreal, due, in part, to its burgeoning industrial park off of the Highway 40 service road.
Council and administrative staff began discussing the issue a year ago and concluded that renovations at town hall would only be a Band-Aid solution to the current lack of office and meeting space.
Today, 10 people, including the mayor, work in the building. It is expected one more person will be added to the staff next year. This is up from the seven who worked there in 2001, Tutino said.
“The building is too small for the people we have currently,” she said, adding the building’s plumbing, heating and air conditioning need to be upgraded.
“We are looking at our future needs in the 21st century,” she continued. “Right now we have no place to have meetings. For that we have to move the public works building.”
The plan is to add about 1,500 square feet of space to the existing town hall. A new conference room will be set up on the top floor. The basement will also be excavated so it can be used for storage space and potentially any future office space expansion.
Cosmetic changes will be made to the council room, and the reception area will be made more user-friendly, Tutino said.
“These changes will last for decades,” the mayor added.
Council will address concerns from residents and might include some of their recommendations in the final plan before heading to tender.
“Town hall is very special to our citizens,” the mayor said, adding public feedback is actively being sought, since the project includes an expansion as opposed to simply an interior renovation.
“The work won’t affect the façade. The extension is toward the back,” Tutino added.
If all goes well and there is no significant negative reaction to the proposal from citizens, construction could start next March or April, she said.
Town hall staff may temporarily relocate to the public works facility on Surrey Dr. during the construction period. Council meetings will also likely be moved to the Fritz Farm community centre while work on town hall is being carried out.
The town hall building and the sprawling 10,195-square-foot lakefront property it rests on were deeded to the town a century ago by one of its founders, James Morgan. The converted cottage formally began to be used by the town in 1915, Tutino said, adding an extension had been carried out just over 75 years ago.
During the forced mega-city mergers, Tutino successfully lobbied to thwart attempts by Montreal to lend Baie-d’Urfé’s town hall to a community group, pointing out the property was deeded to the town on condition it be used for municipal purposes.
As a result, the building was used as a point of service while Baie-d’Urfé was annexed with Beaconsfield for four years to form a borough until the demergers took hold in 2006.