The College: we need to learn from the past

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by Bill Gooch

Councillor Bertram’s article in this weeks Times takes me back to 2003 when the hot topic of the day was building the Municipal Centre. First let me say the Centre is a great asset to our community and, while I supported the need for this building, I was totally against the financing plan. Deloitte and Touche did an audit of the building plan and were very critical about the financing; our Municipal Treasurer wrote a memo to the CAO of the time, recommending against the plan. However, those who favoured the plan spoke about the building paying for itself, fund raising would be incredible etc etc. In reality, I doubt that fund raising came up with 10% of its objective (as I don’t have the records in front of me, I may be a bit off here). The building has never paid for itself, nor will it! While I was mayor, the yearly budget reflected revenues being half the operational costs of the centre, I doubt that this reality has changed.

Mr. Bertram is telling us how wonderful the acquisition of the College will be for us as an economic driver for the community. While it was nice to have the College in the community, I dispute that it was an economic driver. Being an educational institution, the College paid no property taxes, the majority of the students lived and ate on the campus, so contributed very little to the economy. Retaining the campus as a Municipal property means we won’t get any tax revenue from it again – that’s thousands of dollars that could be spent on roads etc. As the College is no longer an educational institution, are we getting property taxes from the University of Guelph? If not, why not? This property ownership must be in the private sector.

Mr. Bertram tells us that he would love to tell us the details of the plan, but can’t. How has council been brought up to date as the negotiations continued? Were there “in camera” meetings to discuss and make decisions? Were the notice of these meetings made know at council meetings as required by law? Who were the negotiators, all of council, or who? If this deal is completed without an opportunity for the public to consider the financial and operational details, then I hope someone will challenge the process through the OMB. I don’t believe that bringing the details forward would damage the plan. If potential partners don’t want to make the details public, then that in itself should be enough to walk away from this investment of OUR money. Are the residents of this community so stupid that they can’t analyze a business plan?

Mr. Bertram says that “the rumour mill can invent reasons” to negate the project. That is the same type of insult people used in 2003 to anyone who brought up anything negative about the Municipal Centre. This statement of Mr. Bertram is what took me back to thinking about 2003. As I and others continued to raise negative points about financing and fundraising and utilization of the proposed Municipal Centre, we were called rumour mongers etc. Well, our concerns regarding this wonderful asset have proven justified. By the way, if I remember correctly the financing plan calls for a $1,000,000 balloon payment at the 20 or 25 year mortgage anniversary. Has money been set aside, or will revenue from the College provide it?

An election is coming up next year, Mr. Bertram, and if you want to “stake your reputation as a Councillor” on this project, then delay the final agreement until after the election. The University won’t care, and if your private partners do, then they can take a walk

1 COMMENT

  1. Guesses, unsubstantiated statements and hyperbole do not advance public knowledge and engagement. They are not journalism.

    In 2005 North Grenville Community Complex fundraising was on target to meet planned $5million in funding contracts, donations and naming rights. The consistent leadership by Council to develop a Community Centre was redirected through an election that saw a new Mayor attempt to divert public funds to go toward a downtown Kemptville office complex. Was fundraising impacted? By how much? And when it comes to community leadership…. what is needed to help a municipality succeed when they take on a major project that can offer a major benefit to the area?

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