Questions loom over future of proposed Brights Grove project

Bright's Grove Library. November 2021. (Photo courtesy of Bright's Grove Community Hub Project via Facebook)

Those involved with the Bright’s Grove Community Hub project are hopeful and yet “incredibly disappointed” with recent circumstances that have left the project at a standstill.

Sarnia City Council voted to not include funding for the community hub project in the 2022 budget, during this month’s budget deliberations. The matter was tabled pending a report from staff. A few councillors, including Brian White, were less than thrilled about delaying plans at the library.

The proposed project sought to expand the current library, and overall, make the Faethorne building accessible.

Project Co-Chair Kirsten Kilner-Holmes said she’s not sure where things go from here.

“All we needed from council was for them to add it to the 10-year capital plan,” she said. “If they had added this project to the 10-year capital plan then we could have actively begun our campaign to fundraise.”

Kilner-Holmes also said it’s unlikely a tabled project will receive any sort of grant funding from different levels of government.

While project supporters are disappointed with the outcome, other residents agree with council’s decision that more information and community input was required in order for the project to move forward with municipal funds.

A group of Brights Grove residents spoke with the mayor and members of council ahead of budget deliberations to express their concerns. A letter sent to city staff said input on the project was only given in 2017 and since then plans have changed to include more square footage. Some of the concerns raised were also in regards to no additional parking and student safety.

Al Jones told Sarnia News Today that a letter was sent to the city in August with a list of questions, which went unanswered. After months of silence, Jones said Mayor Mike Bradley was contacted and a second letter with questions was sent on December 3.

“We’re not against anything. We think that the addition should only be the 500 square feet and if the city has $5 million to spend, there are other places to spend it,” he said.

Kilner-Homes said the initial estimated cost of the community hub project was around $3.5 million and is not sure where people got $5 million from.

“If council had added it to the capital list, that’s when the detailed drawings and estimates could have been pulled from and that’s where we would have been able to figure out what our campaign would be,” she said.

Kilner-Homes also said based on the community and surrounding area, an appropriate sized library and community room would have been 7,000 sq. ft.

A community hub, as defined by the provincial government, is unique to each community based on local needs. It typically serves as an “access point” to services surrounding health, social, cultural, recreational, and other resources.

City of Sarnia Parks and Facilities Operations Manager Trevor Sanderson had previously told Sarnia News Today that there was a need for this type of project, from a city perspective.

As decided during the December 7th budget meeting, staff will return to council with a report in the coming months. Kilner-Homes said the project committee will continue to work with staff in order to answer questions and address concerns.

“The reality is 2022 is an election year and they will be getting this report, let say in April. The reality is, who knows what city council will do with that report at that time,” she said. “It just needs to get on the capital list and I’m not sure if there is a path moving forward for this or not. I’d like to think so, I’m just not sure.”

Nevertheless, Kilner-Homes said she appreciates the support residents provided during this process.