South Glengarry council moving to Williamstown

(Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

LANCASTER – Facing a space at the Lancaster municipal office where social distancing is almost impossible, South Glengarry is making plans to move its council chambers to Williamstown.

Setting up chambers in Tartan Hall at the Char-Lan Recreation Center would be permanent, council heard Monday night.

Since the coronavirus outbreak, council has been holding its meetings via video and based on the province extending its emergency order, it’s expected the council may be doing that for several months.

CAO Tim Mills told council that based on numbers of councillors, staff and members of the public “we could not hold the meeting in there (Lancaster office) without excluding some people.”

While moving chambers to Williamstown, at the same time, the existing offices at 6 Oak Street will be renovated to better address confidentiality and security for staff, such as having individual closed offices with walls rather than the current open concept design.

Some councillors expressed concern about forcing out paying users at the Char-Lan Recreation Center by holding council meetings twice a month.

“My biggest concern is the future opportunity to rent out Tartan Hall. It’s a very nice spot. It does get a lot of use,” Coun. Sam McDonell said. While there are no concrete plans, Mills says there are users of Tartan Hall every night and “we will have to impact the user.”

Coun. Stephanie Jaworski wondered “what it will mean for the arena,” given that Monday nights are usually one of the busiest nights with figure skating and two hockey games. Plus there’s the challenge of parking.

“You typically can have up to 70 skaters out there and their parents, their vehicles in the parking lot. Then it’s followed by two competitive rep-level hockey games. Parking is really hard to get to and people are parking over at the high school.”

“It’s a very busy place. The needs of the many for the needs of the few. We don’t get tons of visitors for council meetings so I would hate to displace a whole bunch of arena users for our smaller gatherings,” she said.

Jaworski mused that council might get a few more drop-ins being at Tartan Hall.

Coun. Martin Lang liked the plan, saying the current council chambers are a third of the building that is a “total waste” of space that sits empty day after day.

The preliminary budget for the move and renovations would be $50,000 for the project, $30,000 for microphones and other technology, $10,000 for furniture, plus the township would use some or all of the $75,000 from its modernization funding reserve, for a total of $165,000.

It will also make an application to the City of Cornwall through its Social Services Relief Fund, which offsets COVID-19 related costs.

Council gave the go-ahead Monday night for the move and for Mills to hire a professional designer to draw up plans for the Oak Street office.

It also approved a telecommuting policy at Monday’s meeting.

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