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Council approves library budget but denies consultant request

The Thunder Bay Public Library received a yes for its $6.9 million budget for 2024. TBPL representatives were requesting $150,000 to hire an outside consultant to explore a potential Intercity mall location.
Thunder Bay Public Library CEO Richard Togman presents to city council on March 27, 2023. (Ian Kaufman, TBnewswatch)

THUNDER BAY – The Thunder Bay Public Library (TBPL) gets a yes on its proposed budget but a no for money to hire an outside consultant to explore a potential Intercity mall location.

Council followed the recommendation of staff to approve the $6.9 million budget for 2024.

They also committed no further funds to the central library project “until the result of the planning process as per the planning act to amend the official plan and zoning by-law is complete.”

Red River Coun. Michael Zussino originally made the suggestion to add $150,000 from the capital general reserve fund on Jan. 30 but Current River Coun. Andrew Foulds put forward a motion to refer that issue back to administration for more information ahead of Thursday’s session.

“I understand both sides of this situation because when you want to lease a space, things are time sensitive,” Zussino said after Thursday’s meeting. “You could do all this work, and then all of this would not come to fruition or other people on the way saying this is not going to happen.”

“This is something that people seem to like the idea of - in principle at least, and so let’s find ways to expedite this.”

In the memo to council Thursday, city manager Norm Gale said there is no policy support for a central library at the Intercity Shopping Centre.

“Administration has completed an initial review of the project and has determined that the proposed central library at Intercity mall does not meet current official plan and zoning requirements. Therefore, TBPL must go through a public planning process to request amendments to these.

“Council should not be placed in the position of appearing to be influenced by agendas outside the planning process or pre-determining planning decisions. The planning process should be the first step in determining the feasibility of this project.”

Gale reminded council that any official plan or zoning by-law amendments that they make to support the centralized library location can be appealed to the Ontario Land Tribunal by even one proponent, where they have lodged their objections to the project.

Neebing Coun. Greg Johnsen feels the conversation will continue even before administration is set to report back in June.

“I have used the library for my own work and I have had some really good conversations with Richard Togman,” Johnsen said.

“I think ultimately, as a council, we have to sit with this for a bit and see what city staff come back with. It’s a bit of a delay, but it will help us figure out what’s the best plan forward for this.”

Further information from city staff was part of a June 2023 vote.


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