$8 million price tag for Port Credit Library sinking highlights Mississauga’s dilemma over aging infrastructure

The clean design of the library showcases the waterfront neighborhood of Port Credit. Windows allow natural light to illuminate the rows of books and the cozy interior provides an inviting space to learn, work or enjoy some quiet time.

In 2013, Port Credit Library was recognized as a neighborhood gem with a Governor General’s Medal for its creative design and green renovation.

“I know the library is the heart and soul of our Port Credit ward,” Ward 1 Councilor Stephen Dasko said in a previous City press release.

But for those reading reports from Mississauga City Hall, there was a sense of sinking. Now an $8 million project has been approved by the council to save the facility.

Buried deep under the $3.1 million facelift in 2013, the magnificent building is slowly sinking into the soft, muddy ground. By July 2021, the structure had sunk so deep into the earth that Mississauga had to close the doors so as not to endanger the public.

The sinking library, located at 20 Lakeshore Road East since 1962, is an extreme example of the problems with aging facilities in Mississauga, a problem that could become much more significant in the years to come. Rapid growth over the past several decades means that Mississauga has several buildings that are relatively close in age, which means that when repair bills come due, they can fall due around the same time.

About half (52%) of the City’s buildings are over 30 years old and in need of investment, meaning that a significant portion of City spending over the next 10 years will need to be spent on these facilities.

Buildings require constant maintenance and repairs to both the exterior envelope and the electrical and HVAC systems that make up the internal workings. City buildings, such as community and recreation centers frequented by the public, often require more repairs due to the amount of use. As the city grows, this maintenance budget will need to grow with it. Climate change and the threat of more frequent extreme storms also pose an imminent threat to these facilities.

To keep all buildings on track, Mississauga approved a asset management plan to inform its decisions in the years to come. The report details the city’s two largest asset categories, roads/bridges and stormwater, which account for $9.2 billion in infrastructure.

Community-focused recreation centers, fire stations, and libraries are often last in line when critical infrastructure ages. In one Three As part of a series of investigations, The Pointer revealed how a lack of investment in the city’s fire stations had led many to decay significantly. The City was told that some should even be demolished due to the state of disrepair.

When City staff know that a number of assets are rapidly approaching the end of their life, it triggers a debate between which one is most critical to replace and the risks associated with its failure.

In a perfect world, Mississauga would be able to make repairs immediately, but decades of small tax increases and freezes have exacerbated the infrastructure deficit. Due to a combination of factors, including downloading programs from other levels of government as well as constraints on their ability to generate revenue, municipalities across Ontario are grappling with the gap between needed repairs in a given year and the amount of money available. to pay them. Mississauga staff estimate the gap will total between $40 million and $45 million per year over the next decade.

In the case of Port Credit Library, the 50-year-old foundations beneath the whimsical exterior have been “worn down”.

The loose soil from a high water table and landfill waste on which the building was built adds stress to the concrete pillars beneath the library. Previously, the site housed the Faulkner Marsh. As urbanization happened, the problems increased with it. Residents and the nearby Lakeview Power Station dumped their trash and coal fly ash on the site, but the actions came back to haunt them.

In 1992, the City carried out the first of many renovations. At the time, no structural damage was reported. In 2013, the same year the building won the award, a routine condition assessment showed visual deterioration of some of the 27 pillars holding the building up. Three years later, a pilot project to deal with the sinking installed four to six large steel screws around three decaying pillars to act as support mechanisms.

To ensure that the building could continue to be operational and safe, the City asked an engineering firm to monitor the foundations every two months until 2021. It was then that considerable deterioration was noted. .

“Further loss of cross-section of some of the concrete piers and based on the recommendation of the structural engineering society, and out of an abundance of caution, staff have initiated the closure of the library for public use,” reads a council report.

The cement sidewalk around the Port Credit Library shows signs of displacement, possibly a sign of the subsidence of the foundation.

(Natasha O’Neill / The Pointer)

In February, the board approved a staff recommendation to undertake repairs estimated at between $6 million and $8 million on the remaining 24 piers, fitting them with support beams like the 2016 pilot project. The funding is split over two years, with $3 million allocated in 2022 and the remainder in 2023.

This solution will see four to six support beams installed approximately 50 feet below grade (or down to bedrock) around the existing concrete foundation. With the complexity of stabilizing the foundations while the building still exists, workers will have to dig out most of the earth surrounding the library and work slowly through each of the 24 pillars. The whole project will take 20 to 24 months to complete, according to the staff estimate.

Two other ideas were explored by staff but were not recommended as viable options to the board. The first was to rebuild the library at the existing location. A project that would cost approximately $18 million over three years. However, this option would do nothing to fix the existing issues plaguing the current building.

The most expensive option the staff explored was relocating the library, an option that would cost approximately $22 million to acquire land, develop the site, and build it. Although the most expensive of the three, the 2022 city budget shows that roughly the same amount of money was going to be spent on the library anyway.

According to the 2022 budget document, $21 million is allocated to the Port Credit Library between 2022 and 2025.

Shari Lichterman, Mississauga’s Corporate Services Commissioner and Chief Financial Officer, said the city will change the amount in the budget because approval of the repair project over the next two years will save $13 million on scheduled maintenance and repairs by then. and 2025.

“The existing project budget of $5 million has been included in the $21 million. Therefore, we are only adding $3 million to the project for a total cost of $8 million per report,” she said in an email. “We’re cutting $13 million from the budget and going back to reserves.”

Staff believe the work will ensure the stability of the library for the next 50 years. However, with the building being located in a floodplain and with an increased threat of natural disasters due to climate change, the foundation may become unstable much more quickly.

“The engineering advice is that this solution allows the library to stay where it is for up to 50 years,” Lichterman told The Pointer. “Nothing is ever certain, but given the success of the pilot project, we are confident that this will be a viable long-term solution.”

One option not explored by staff was to co-locate the library in an existing or future building. The City of Brampton Library Master Plan explains that if libraries are located in buildings like schools or community centers, they are heavily trafficked and can become central hubs for a community.

South Fletcher’s Sportsplex was one of the first to embrace the idea, with a co-located library opening in 1997.

This would not be new to the city of Mississauga. The 2019 Mississauga Library Master Plan states that co-locating within an existing municipal facility can do wonders for foot traffic in a library. The Port Credit, Lakeview and Lorne Park libraries are not integrated into other buildings and, with their below-average square footage, accounted for just 10% of foot traffic from 2016 to 2017, the document said. Libraries attached to civic institutions accounted for 64-66% of foot traffic.

One of the issues with moving the library from Port Credit or locating it in a planned new development is the current price of vacant land. According to Litchterman, this option has been considered, but has not yet been tested.

“The City reviews new developments, recognizing that land and space in new developments come at a cost, usually at market rates,” she said.

Until construction is complete, residents can continue to access books and computers at Port Credit Arena.

E-mail: [email protected]

Twitter: @taasha__15

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