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Joseph Morin
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

WINCHESTER – The long awaited rebuild for Dundas Manor is expected to begin in mid – 2022, but years of delays and political wrangling have increased the original cost of the much-needed project.

The original estimate was completed in 2016 and came in at $35,000,000. A new estimate puts the cost of replacing the aging facility with a state-of-the-art building, with 128 beds, from $55 to $62-million. Part of the reason for the dramatic increase is construction costs, which have increased from 5.5 percent to 6.8 percent since 2016.

Another reason for the increase is because of improvements and changes made to the future facility because of Covid-19.

Bill Smirle, who sits on the board of directors for the Manor said, “The building has had to be made larger to accommodate the improvements.”

The original plan was to fundraise for a portion of the total cost of the rebuild; originally the fundraise amount was set at $11-million, however due to the estimate increase, the fundraise-goal has had to be changed from $18 to $20-million.

“To date we have fundraised a bit over $8-million,” he said.

As a result of the increase, the Manor board has gone back to the architect for the new building and asked them, “to sharpen their pencils, and come back with new pricing.” We are waiting for details,” said Smirle.

“It is worth noting that retaining the current Manor is not an option,” he said.

To date, the project has received pledges from the United Counties of SD&G, and North and South Dundas. The counties have agreed to pledge $4-million while each of the municipalities have pledged $500,000.

Some members of the board would like the government to increase their portion of the funding but there has been talk of asking for more.

In the meantime, the Manor will have to make do with fundraising the amount they need.

Dundas Manor is not the only planned long-term care building project that needs additional funding in SD&G.

MPP Jim McDonell is aware of the increased building costs and the need for some funding adjustments.

“About a month and a half ago we announced there would be more funding for some of these units to make sure they get going. This will be addressed when they enter into their agreements,” he said.

McDonell said that when the government makes these announcements there is a time-period when negotiations between organizations and the government take place regarding the final details of whatever project they are working on.

“I think they will be adjusted at that point.”

He is hopeful that as the Dundas Manor project goes forward, there might be more funding to help make up the difference from the original cost estimate in 2016.

Smirle said, “There have been donations made regularly from other groups. We are in the quiet phase of looking for dollars from those who are directly involved.”

Supporters of a newer version of Dundas Manor are going ahead regardless of the estimated increased cost. A new Dundas Manor is a project that cannot be put aside.

“Do we need a new manor? Yes,” said Smirle.

“If we maintain the current one, it’s going to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to update, redo and the rooms would still be too small, wheelchairs cannot pass in them right now. The changes are really for the better,” he said.

Smirle said the community is extremely generous with the funding but it will not be easy to reach any new goals.

There is little doubt in his mind that the Dundas Manor rebuild will happen in 2022.