Past, Present & Future: To return to city hall – or not?

Seaway News
Past, Present & Future: To return to city hall – or not?

City council has been meeting in the salons at the Cornwall Civic Complex since the scourge of COVID-19 descended upon our planet.

Council, like most others, met virtually for a time to conduct the political business of the City of Cornwall at the beginning of the pandemic. Then came the pivot to meet in-person, but with much more space for physical distancing, by way of the larger venue at the complex. In the months that have followed the city has been loathe to return to the more intimate setting at city hall for two reasons – one official, and the other not so much. Officially council meetings appear to be destined to continue to take place at the complex for the reasons cited above.

Unofficially there’s always been some backroom talk about moving city hall out of Pitt Street and consolidating administrative space at the civic complex. It says here that those conversation have picked up speed since the pandemic, and we support such a move. City hall has been a fixture on Pitt Street for decades. Council chambers, as well as offices for the mayor, CAO, tax department and clerk can be found at 360 Pitt Street. At city hall you can request a marriage license, change your address for property tax purposes and make general inquiries.

In short – it’s just a small part of what the city does. If you have questions about building permits (ha!) or economic development or tourism, those offices are housed at the civic complex. The aquatic centre is there too, as well as the Ed Lumley Arena. And Lamoureux Park. And plenty of parking. And the waterfront. And the marina. And. And. And.

City hall is shoehorned between the Justice Building (police station) and the fire hall. Parking is a treat. City councillors typically get all the good spots before the rest of us show up and don’t even think about parking in the nearby municipal lot which is typically filled with police cruisers or vehicles that belong to officers/civilians who are at work. The council chambers at city hall, while offering nostalgia you can find in few other municipal buildings in Cornwall, has little to no space available for meetings. In the past, contentious municipal issues that drew a crowd typically resulted in an overflow of people into the hallway. Standing-room only signs should have been hung.

By the time one adds desk space for council, the CAO, clerk, administrators, not to mention chairs for the gallery, a media table and the TV infrastructure, the chambers become full. Really full.

Which is why the civic complex, and its cavernous salons, are the solution. In fact, it’s time to consider moving the entire city hall operation to the complex. A consolidation of municipal space will create efficiencies and ultimately save the taxpayers money.

Let’s begin to have those conversations.

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