Tantramar supporters ask for plebiscite on town hall move
AMHERST – Amherst is going to consider a petition from supporters of the Tantramar Theatre asking for a plebiscite on the town’s move to the Dominion Public Building.
The town formally received the petition, signed by 526 residents, during its May session Monday night.
“We just received the petition and the way the bylaw reads is that we will now review that and determine what the next steps are,” Mayor Robert Small said following the council session. “We just awarded tenders for that building, but we take things very seriously. We have received it and will consider it in due course.”
The theatre’s artistic director, Bette Douglas, and several supporters were in attendance at the council meeting and left after council received the petition.
“They did exactly what I expected them to do,” Douglas said later. “We are going to continue to gather signatures in hopes they realize that there are a lot more people than they think opposed to their plan.”
Theatre supporters have maintained the town should have asked the public before deciding to evict the theatre and move its offices from the Confederation Memorial Building.
Council announced last year plans to move the town’s offices to the former post office building that has housed the theatre for more than a decade. The theatre’s lease at the building expires on Thursday.
The town plans to be in the building in time for its September council session.
Council took another step toward moving last night when it awarded a $302,900 tender to JC Mechanical to upgrade the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems at the historic downtown building.
The town received three bids on the project, but two of them were rejected because they didn’t comply in that they were only for air conditioning and ventilation.
Funding for the project is coming from the 2012-13 capital budget.
The town’s director of public works, Ben Pitman, said the successful bidder has been through the building on a couple of occasions and has experience working with older buildings, including Truro’s renovated town hall.
He said there are no structural issues with the building that need to be addressed and the architect is confident the project can be done on budget.
Small said the town had budgeted $350,000 from this year’s budget for the upgrade. He still believes the project can be done for around $750,000 – including $250,000 that was in last year’s budget.
“I’m confident we will be under that number and not the millions that have been reported,” the mayor said.