OPINION: Time to sell City Hall?

Image of Nick Seebruch
By Nick Seebruch
OPINION: Time to sell City Hall?
Cornwall City Council Chambers (Nick Seebruch/ Seaway News).

The media was invited back to cover Cornwall City Council in person last Monday and a lot had changed since the last time I sat in at a council meeting.

For one, the last time I was physically present at a Cornwall City Council meeting was probably February 2020. Second, the last time I was in a Cornwall City Council meeting it was being held in the Council Chambers at City Hall.

Since Council began meeting again in-person after going strictly virtual for a spell, they’ve been meeting in salons A and B downstairs at the Cornwall Civic Complex.

I was told at Monday night’s meeting that while the old Council Chambers are still being used occasionally for smaller meetings, that the salons at the Complex will serve as the host location for Council meetings for the foreseeable future.

This makes sense. The salons at the Complex allow for greater social distancing, which is still important indoors, and they still are able to provide a professional setting for the meetings.

This does raise the question though, if Council meetings will be held at the Complex, can the City economize on space at City Hall? Does Cornwall even still need the current City Hall building?

The City of Cornwall owns a few major buildings that house the majority of their municipal employees. One is the Civic Complex, the next is City Hall and the Justice Building next door, then there is the Benson Centre, and finally the Municipal Works building at their yard on Ontario St.

The pandemic as I outlined above, has changed the way that the city does a lot of things, and that isn’t just limited to Council meetings.

For a time, many city employees were working from home during the pandemic, but many have also since returned to working in their office.

At City Hall specifically, the Council Chambers make up the single largest room in the building, a room whose initial purpose has now been made redundant.

With the possibility working from home and Council being moved to the Complex I think it is time for Council to ask for a report on potentially closing City Hall and selling the building.

If there is one thing that I sense many of our readers like it is when they feel their tax dollars are being respected and money being saved.

City Hall is no spring chicken. It is a 60-year-old building and there are going to be maintenance costs that come with that, and if it is not currently serving the main purpose it was designed for, then is it worth keeping it at all?

There were several councillors who voted against the most recent municipal budget. Councillors like Eric Bergeron and Justin Towndale both voted against the budget, and put forward motions to get a couple of capital projects removed from that budget. Their motions would by no means have made a significant impact on the municipal budget, but cutting the expense of owning a building and then selling that building definitely would.

Major companies who own property in cities like Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal are all shrinking their physical footprint with Shopify selling their downtown Ottawa offices being a stand out example. I am surprised that Council’s budget hawks have not yet jumped on this idea.

What do you think readers? Should the City look into consolidating and closing some of its office space? Email me your Letters to the Editor to nseebruch@seawaynews.media

Share this article