Candidates file information request on town hall move

Darrell Cole
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Looking for total cost of renovations Dominion building

Candidates Wayne Bishop and Ed Childs have filed a freedom of information request for information on the cost of renovating the Dominion Public Building in downtown Amherst. 

AMHERST – A request from the recent Amherst municipal candidates’ forum has led to a freedom of information request from both mayoralty candidate Wayne Bishop and council candidate Ed Childs.

The candidates filed the request on Monday with the Amherst CAO Greg Herrett seeking information on the cost of the new town hall.

During the candidates’ forum Mayor Robert Small was asked the costs associated with renovating the Dominion Public Building.

“We shouldn’t have to file a freedom of information request for information the current mayor has promised publicly to provide and is readily available at town hall,” Bishop said. “The mayor and council’s refusal to provide this information, even after being asked a second time, speaks volumes about the lack of openness and transparency being demonstrated by this mayor and council.”

The two candidates are seeking the complete costs of the project to date, including all regular pay, overtime and benefits being paid to town staff who are working on the project as of Oct. 15.

Childs said he’s disappointed the two candidates were forced to file a freedom of information request because the information should be readily available at town hall.

He said voters are likely going to find that the cost of converting the building into a new town hall is much higher than taxpayers have been told. He estimates the final price could be more than $1.1 million

“We just want to make sure that the full cost of the project, including the use of town staff, is fully accounted for and disclosed as such to the citizens. They have a right to know,” Childs said.

The mayor said the town has been upfront with the costs of the redevelopment of the building. He said the town purchased the building for $315,675 in the fiscal year ending March 2011, began renovation work last year and spent $25,960 in the fiscal year ending March 2012.

“Those amounts are a matter of public record and appear in and have been reported upon in our audited financial statements for those years,” the mayor said.

The bulk of the renovation work has been done this year, Small said. The current year costs are estimated to be $826,000, including $525,269 to date and another $300,000 that has yet to be billed.

“In terms of the cost of town employees working on the project, it is not the practice of the town to capitalize the cost of its own labour in calculating the cost of capital projects,” the mayor said. “For this reason we are not immediately able to provide the detailed labour costs requested by the other candidates.”

He said it’s important to note the employees working on the project are already on the town’s payroll, so there is no incremental cost to the town of using internal, local labour to work on the project.

Small pointed out it’s common to temporarily reassign employees to various duties. Early on in the project, he said, using town employees was identified as a way to avoid incremental renovations costs not only for the work to be done, but in terms of outside contractors’ profit and overhead as well.

“They have very likely incurred some overtime hours on this job, as often happens through the course of their duties as well. To be completely fair though, they also occasionally incur overtime when working on other duties.”


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Recent comments

  • Al
    October 17, 2012 - 20:08

    Why not do away with the mayor and counselors and let Mr.Harriot and Mr.MacDonald run things?Oops.These two can hang out together in the new town hall do lunch at Victoria Square and watch all the people shopping downtown.Might be time for a change,someone who will ask the hard questions and know the right answers,otherwise in two or three years the only things open downtown will be Tims and the Town hall.

  • by by
    October 17, 2012 - 18:25

    Obviously people aren't as upset and worked up as Ed, and the few posters that follow. If the work the council did was so bad, there would be lots more running, but only people for 6 seats, with one current not running. not much drama here...well only Drama is around Mr. Ed. So the town used the people they already had on staff to do the renos, instead of paying them, and another group...which would always go into cost overruns me a project that doesn' big deal;

  • Shirley
    October 17, 2012 - 14:18

    Mr Bishop and Mr. Childs are not questioning using town labour instead of outside contractors. At the forum Mayor Small stated the total project costs was 826,000.00 today new paper states that in 2211 they spent appox 340,000.00 & will spend 826,000.00 in 2012. They total is 1,166,000.00 without Town labour. Capital projects should have full costs whick includes town labour. This is standard accounting priciples. What will the citizans of Amherst actually be charged for this project?

  • Mr. Chow
    October 17, 2012 - 08:29

    You know what people the best way to show the current mayor and council that we do not like what is going on is at the polls. Get out there and vote make your voice heard. If you do not like what is going on then you have a choice. If you do not vote then you do not have a right to complain.

    • John
      October 17, 2012 - 16:05

      "If you do not vote then you do not have a right to complain" I have never understood this logic, just because I choose not to vote doesn't make my tax dollar any different than yours "the best way to show the current mayor and council that we do not like what is going on" Some people do like what is going on

    • Mr. Chow
      October 18, 2012 - 14:41

      John if you are not willing to vote how are you going to show the mayor and council that you do not like what is going on. John I am not saying that my tax dollars is different then yours but again I am willing to vote for change. If you are not willing to vote for change then how can you complain after. " Some people do like what is going on" remember John he never created jobs in town. Companies up and left and there is no good paying jobs in this town. Even if you like what is going on then you should vote to support that then.

  • shocked
    October 17, 2012 - 08:23

    There are already complaints from town staff that the Ratchford building was a better building for them. The new offices are smaller, darker and air quality is terrible. They are already having a problem with the musty smell in the basement and employees are not happy. I'll be curious to see if the town has performed all of the required tests and met all its obligations before it moves anyone into the building permanently or are they going to do what they have always done; whatever they want and live with the consequences. The mayor and councellors have no real control in this or any town. Greg Herrett is who needs to be replaced. Elected officials are all the same and each new group keeps inheriting the same baggage.

  • Concerned
    October 17, 2012 - 07:16

    I see that Small hasn't talked about the extra cost endured when trying to save money, that they had to take out and repair the things that weren't done to code. How about that the Town workers were put on the job all day long to save money, then go out and do the work that they had to do in town for time and half. Lets talk about the money that they spent on patching our streets, that was well spent. also where are the big jobs in this town, retail doesn't support retail.

  • Questions do need to be asked on this item
    October 17, 2012 - 07:15

    This is the first time I have ever heard, seen or am aware of a Town using their own workers on a Capital Project as tradesmen, labour, etc. I am sure it has happened before it is just so unusual in todays economy that it is outside my experience. Governments contracting out even their maintenance work is more common today due to need to reduce fixed costs of having permanent staff. There is also a lot of discussion around Town questioning the qualifications of those workers for the specific work involved and questioning why there are surplus staff available for such work. The usual norm is the Municipality will have sufficient work-force to service and maintain infrastructure with a defined number of additional personnel for sick leave, holidays etc. However, here we have a situation where there appears to be surplus staff to the point where they can displace local Contractors on a Capital Project. It is sure difficult to see the savings in all this we we are paying for this staffing level year-round. Another view on this situation may be; How much built-in overtime is on the table because these Town workers are required to perform their regular jobs after putting in a days work at the Dominion Building? It sure seems to me that there is a bit of back a*sward logic in how this work is being done. I appreciate the aspect of having that building as Town Hall however, IMO, how the work is proceeding, future plan for the old Town Hall and Council's answers on queries about the process does not sit well with me.

  • John
    October 16, 2012 - 20:45

    Am I to assume from this that Mr. Childs and Mr, Bishop would of rathered the town hire the work out to contractors at who knows what cost instead of using town employees already on the payroll? I think the use if town employees was just good business.

    • Tonia
      October 17, 2012 - 11:40

      Well John, I think it is safe to say during the election making "assumptions" is not the best way to go. The facts are clearly laid out in that Mr. Childs, and Mr. Bishop are asking questions about the budget of our town (and it's spending on the transformation of town hall), and they have as part of their platform the belief in a transparent and openness on town council. At the candidates debate a member of the public asked the same question, and mayor Small could not give a conclusive response, but indicated at the time he would do so. It seems as though this has not yet happened, given his quote in the above article. If we wish to make changes lets let our voice be heard on October 20th. Get out and vote folks, this is our chance.

  • gary babineau jr.
    October 16, 2012 - 19:47

    Get over it,move on ,it's happening,it is what it is.

  • Lolly
    October 16, 2012 - 19:36

    All I hear coming out of Mayor Small's mouth is blah, blah, blah.

  • Willie Wonka
    October 16, 2012 - 19:01

    Wow---we got a deal--one heck of a deal---just take a look--a really looong look at what our neighbor across the marsh paid for that TAJ MAHAL that they built and ended up sticking the future taxpayers for. Shameful to say the LEAST!

    • Just Sayin
      October 17, 2012 - 23:10

      While I find myself in a position that I am unable comment on the great discussion taking place this evening, I do wish to share my recent experience while visiting the newly completed Sackville Town Hall and Emergency Services Centre. In relation to what our men and women have been forced to work in these past years, you are 100 percent right in that the facility could most certainly be considered a Tajmahal, In August ,there in a volunteer capacity once meeting with the mayor, he proudly toured me through this beautiful, clean lined, efficient facility, including the state of the art council chambers. While I was surprised to learn the facility was designed for multi- function events, I was pleasantly shocked to learn, the federal government contributes $400,000 annually for the housing of the RCMP, over a 20 year period, and that should the RCMP discontinue services, the federal government would by contract, pay out any remaining years. While I in no way support changing the Town Police for RCMP as a community we need to start thinking outside the box, stop doing what is the easiest , safest or most politically correct and put our heads together, pull up our sleeves and get things done in this town. Don't wait until after the election to contact the newly elected councilor with your concerns, suggestions or questions, make the call or contact now, ask directly where they stand on an issue and then vote as you see fit - But Please Vote !