March 12, 2014

Town will try to decide on renting 1 Shamrock

As published in The Erin Advocate

The Town will make a new effort to decide whether to rent out unused space in its building at 1 Shamrock Road, after a year and a half of uncertainty about its future.

Councillors received a report on March 4 about the previous Erin Village Hydro building, part of which continues to be used by the Water Department, directing staff to review proposals from potential tenants for the office portion and make recommendations. Council has still not decided what it wants to do with the building.

Mayor Lou Maieron unsuccessfully proposed an amendment to the motion, including having the Water Department pay for renovations in the garage area and contacting all previously interested parties; then if there was no current interest, to offer the office space to the group promoting a Re-Use Centre, or engage a realtor to promote the property.

In a report on the issue, Finance Director Sharon Marshall said Council knew in September 2012 that the Town would soon lose Community Living (Arc Industries) as its tenant at the building, and that Erin Radio wanted to lease it. The Town has now lost $14,160 in rent and $3,800 in utility fees, based on the old lease.

Council said in 2012 it wanted staff to develop a Leasing Policy, and to consider use of the office area for the Water Department, which was already using the garage area. Creation of the new policy took until the following March and Erin Radio went to another site. The space was signed and advertised at $1,500 per month, plus $2 per square foot for taxes, maintenance and insurance.

There was a plan for renovations to make the space more attractive, but little has been done. With the industrial-zoned site not being leased, proponents of a Re-Use Centre asked to use it rent-free for a trial period. The mayor proposed accepting the re-use plan and having the Water Department move out, but he got not support.

The future of the building has been complicated by the mayor’s efforts to have urban water users pay for all Water Department facilities, including several staff reports, and by a proposal from Councillor Barb Tocher to donate the building to the Water Department. Both have been unsuccessful. Last month, council defeated a resolution instructing staff to lease out the office space.

“The uncertainty of the use of the building, and Council's indecisiveness with regard to its plans for the Water Department and the Re-use Centre proposal, have been the biggest obstacles in the efforts to lease the office space out,” said Marshall.

The Re-Use group said they would be willing to use part of the building, but were upset when they learned that there had been a company seriously interested in leasing, which would have brought the Town some revenue. Marshall said the potential tenant had some reservations, and that a deal was not reached.

“Quite simply, the property has not been leased out to date because we have not received a written ‘offer to lease’ from any party willing to pay the rental fee and utilities as advertised,” said Marshall, noting issues with condition of the property and the price, and suggesting a professional realtor be consulted. “There certainly seems to be a generous supply of office space available in the Erin area.”

“It shouldn’t have got to this point, and we’re all to blame,” Councillor John Brennan said, noting that while Council had given some direction, they had also confused the issue.