• Rob Hornberger

Downtown community centre spared after protest by seniors

Council rejects recommendation to use the Unico building for municipal office space
The Unico Community Centre off Main Street East was the town administration's top choice for expanded municipal office space but was rejected by council following objections from local seniors.

KINGSVILLE — The increased demand for services in Kingsville has lead to a shortage of municipal office space, but the Unico Community Centre will not be one of options considered to deal with the shortage.

There were six sites recommended to council Monday and the town-owned building located off Main Street was the top choice recommended by town staff. The centre is a meeting place for local senior groups, like the Friendly Club.

“What I’m hearing from the seniors in town is that the Unico (building) is their preferred space — that it is very accessible,” said Coun. Laura Lucier.

She said using the centre for office space and moving seniors to the Kingsville Arena was not a viable option.

“While we can say the Kingsville Arena is an accessible space, for a senior with a walker, who needs to traverse a parking lot, ramp and elevator, they are not finding the space (at the arena) suitable.”

Lucier presented a petition signed by 40 seniors opposing the use of the centre for office space.

Other sites considered include the Grovedale House, the arena, the old municipal offices in Cottam and a conversion of the council chambers to office space.

Also on the list was the building a second floor addition to the municipal building at a cost of $3 million.

The last expansion of the municipal building was in 2013 and created 3,600 square feet of new space.

G. Andrew Plancke, director of infrastructure and engineering, told council each site has its pluses and minuses.

He said the expansion of the municipal building carried a hefty price tag and was likely unfeasible since the town’s sanitary sewage system does not extend far enough north along Division Street North.

Plancke said the Unico Community Centre would need IT and internet upgrades and installation of a backup generator.

The arena required the fewest physical upgrades but would mean the loss of community gathering space.

The decision to exclude the Unico Community Centre as an option was unanimous.

Council decided to defer its decision on the various options for three months.

There are currently 39 staff working out of the municipal building; four are working out of the public works building.

Recent hires at the town include a solicitor, clerk, a director of community and development services and a director of corporate services.

Kingsville’s population in 2016 was 22,000, according to the last census.

Mayor Nelson Santos said since the census the town has been adding, on average, 100 homes a year.

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