WARMINGTON: Brampton's million-dollar barn-doggle

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WARMINGTON: Brampton's million-dollar barn-doggle
Author of the article:
Joe Warmington
Publishing date:
Dec 03, 2021 • 1 day ago • 3 minute read •
32 Comments
Brampton City Council voted 6-5 in favour of spending $1 million to move a 600-square-foot Caledon barn to the Historic Bovaird House site in Brampton and restore the dilapidated outbuilding.
Brampton City Council voted 6-5 in favour of spending $1 million to move a 600-square-foot Caledon barn to the Historic Bovaird House site in Brampton and restore the dilapidated outbuilding. Photo by Joe Warmington /Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network
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If I had a million dollars, I would buy you a barn.
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As the Barenaked Ladies might say, haven’t you always wanted a barn?

On the serious side, in Brampton, they used to raise a barn in a day. Today, it seems, they need to raise a million dollars from taxpayers. Needless to say the battle on City Council has turned into a barn burner.

With a 6-5 vote, the motion by Councillor Jeff Bowman passed and the Historic Bovaird House is going to be getting a restored 600-square-foot Caledon barn on its site.

“Anyone who thinks spending a million taxpayer dollars on a 600-foot barn at the same time as small businesses and families are still reeling from the economic impacts of pandemic-related closures has misguided priorities,” said Mayor Patrick Brown. “We need to focus on protecting taxpayers, not pet projects.”
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The vote may be over but the debate is not.

“Brampton’s Barn Boondoggle,” screamed the Bramptonist headline.

But a million dollars? That’s what the motion says.

“Whereas the Caledon Barn (Robinson Barn) would complete the homestead property on Bovaird House providing a unique cultural, educational and heritage view of life in the city over the past 150 years … the cost of restoration, renovation and repairs requires an investment to upgrade and meet safety standards and quality codes … therefore be it resolved $500,000 be assigned for the Caledon Barn Restoration through the 2022 Capital Projects list, with funding sourced from the tax base; and the remaining $500,000 left in the 2023 Capital Budget.”

That adds up to a million.
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“That’s a lot of money for an old barn to store antique farm equipment,” said Don McLeod, of Brampton Focus.

Who knows how high the cost will get?

“We bought it for $2,500,” said Michael Avis, of the Friends of Bovaird House, a group of volunteers that runs the house for thousands of visitors each year.
Michael Avis, of the Friends of Bovaird House, a group of volunteers that runs the historic house in Brampton.
Michael Avis, of the Friends of Bovaird House, a group of volunteers that runs the historic house in Brampton. Photo by Joe Warmington /Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network

This is a great destination and these are all good people. But how does the cost of this barn go from $2,500 to $1 million? It started at $16,000 to dismantle but changed when the consultants and planners got involved.

Needless to say, Mayor Brown voted against this.

“Taxes are too high in Brampton,” said Brown. “I am working hard to bring down taxes and when councillors put in spending proposals like this it is frustrating.”
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I had a nice tour of Bovaird House Friday and can see how the barn will be a welcome addition to the old homestead. The problem is not the barn, it’s the cost.

Venerable historian, Avis, said he too was surprised the bureaucracy resulted in the million-dollar figure, but he pointed out the rest of the property was donated and run free of taxpayer’s help.
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But even Bowman admits the price is steep.

“I agree, the barn estimates are way over what should normally be expected, hence my motion to return $500,000 to 2022 budget and leave the balance in 2023. If, as we hope, the cost is less, any remaining funds from 2023 budget are returned to source.”

McLeod is skeptical, saying, “Have you never heard of a government project returning taxpayer’s money?”

But Councillor Doug Whillans pointed out there are more “pros” to this project than “cons.”

“The property the buildings sit on was donated to the city by the Bovaird family for $2 to preserve the history of the area” and “this is not an unnecessary tax burden but completely the opposite, this is a benefit to our community.”

But Councillor Harkirat Singh feels in a pandemic “I cannot justify this expenditure” since “there are many other priorities” including “turf fields, cricket pitches, hospitals, speed humps and a community police station.”

Councillor Rowena Santos said the money could be used for more police, an Indigenous support officer and other higher priority projects.

My feeling is until they get the cost of this project down to no more than $100,000, they should take this idea behind the barn and shoot it.

jwarmington@postmedia.com
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