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Welland getting new courthouse

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By Rob Houle, St. Catharines Standard

Welland is getting a new courthouse.

Niagara Region councillors at Thursday night's regional council meeting endorsed a staff recommendation that calls for the construction of a new provincial offences courthouse on Duncan St. in Welland. Including the purchase of land, the pricetag for the build is estimated at $12.4 million. In voting to support the staff recommendation, which was supported by the corporate services committee on June 3, council also agreed to put the future of a planned new courthouse in St. Catharines on hold.

The previous term of regional council gave the green light to the build of the POA courthouses to replace rented spaces in Niagara Falls, Welland and St. Catharines, but recent machinations by the provincial government that would see some Provincial Offences Act charges dealt with online call into question the need for Niagara to have two POA courthouses.

On Thursday, councillors agreed with staff to begin construction, posthaste, and the cheaper of the two builds. A new St. Catharines courthouses is estimated to cost $14.3 million.

There was no debate on the issue Thursday, as Welland Mayor Frank Campion immediately after introducing the staff report and the recommendations within, asked that the question of support be put to a vote without discussion. Council voted 21-7 to support staff and the decision made at the corporate services committee meeting.

Outside council chambers, Campion said he did not expect his motion to not have debate would pass.

“To be quite honest, when I stood up to make that motion, I really wasn't expecting to end debate, I just threw it out on the chance it might fly. It was just one of those things that was unplanned,” Campion said, adding he felt the issue has had sufficient debate.

Campion said his view that Welland is the best site for Niagara's lone POA courthouse, should that be the ultimate decision, is based on fact, not parochialism. The staff recommendation of a new courthouse in Welland, he said, “is logical, fiscally responsible. It is the best solution based on the facts.”

St. Catharines regional Coun. Bruce Timms said following the council meeting he was not happy with the decision.

Timms said he favours holding off on any decision of new courthouse construction until after it is made clear on the need following the implementation of the province's online program to deal with certain POA matters.

“Several St. Catharines councillors defended the need for effective delivery of justice through two courts, parallel to the provincial two court system for Niagara,” Timms said. “That there should be a court in St. Catharines and a court in Welland.”

Timms said he believes, regardless of a decrease in court time as a result of the online resolution system, that there should be POA courts in both cities, albeit scaled back designs.
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