Nova Scotia

CBRM council delays decision on new central library while board seeks alternate sites

Cape Breton Regional Municipality is still months away from making a decision on a new central library, an idea that has been studied and discussed for more than 15 years.

For the past year, council has been considering renovating and expanding the former courthouse on Wentworth Park, but on Tuesday, council decided to wait for at least one more study.

Coun. Eldon MacDonald, who chairs the library’s board of directors, said there was no need to rush a decision just because the courthouse owner is getting ready to vacate the building.

“This isn’t about delaying anything,” he told council. “It’s about getting it right, and getting it right isn’t about me accepting a building for a dollar because the federal government’s ready to unload it.”

Instead, the library board is ready to fund its own site selection study to look for alternative locations, he said.

“I’m looking for the options that we were supposed to have, that in my opinion we’ve never received.”

Coun. Eldon MacDonald says the former courthouse is more than 60 years old and he has “serious concerns” about the building’s condition. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

An engineering study released in January found the old courthouse building could be turned into a new central library at a cost of roughly $30 million.

MacDonald said the building is more than 60 years old and was deemed structurally able to accept renovations, but that doesn’t mean it would be ideal.

Some of the interior corridors could be unworkable for library uses and the building might still contain asbestos, he said.

“I do have some serious concerns about the courthouse building,” MacDonald said.

Some councillors said the library needs a new facility that is built to suit the needs of the community, while others said the courthouse presents an opportunity to get a new library sooner rather than later.

Coun. Darren Bruckschwaiger said council needs to make a decision instead of kicking the can down the road.

“We’d all like to drive the Cadillac, but if we can only afford the Datsun, that’s where we are,” he said.

Council decided to wait on the library board’s study on possible sites, which MacDonald said could be ready for council and public scrutiny in a couple of months.

Mayor Amanda McDougall said once a location is finalized, CBRM will have to call for another study on potential design and building costs.

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