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Town Council butts heads over grant application for a new Admin Centre

September 18, 2020   ·   0 Comments

The $17 million price tag on New Tecumseth’s Administration Centre project at the former Alliston Union Public School has been a point of contention for New Tecumseth’s Town Council over the past few years.

In an effort to offset the cost, Ward 7 Councillor Shira Harrison McIntyre brought forward a motion to apply for a federal grant that covers up to 80 per cent of eligible projects costing $10 million or less, which was supported 6-3 at this past Monday night’s Council meeting.

Some members of Council opposed the motion to put forward the grant application due to Administration Centre costing more than $10 million and loosely fitting the grant’s criteria of being a project that retrofits, repairs or upgrades municipal buildings.

“I don’t think this grant speaks to a brand-new Administration Centre; I think there’s a lot of projects in the Town of New Tecumseth that could be explored through this grant but I don’t believe personally the Administration Centre is one of them,” said Ward 6 Councillor Stephanie MacLellan.

“I think it’s a stretch saying this money would even qualify… you don’t know until you ask, but when I read the grant eligibility there’s nothing about new buildings, there’s nothing about anything like that, so I don’t know, it seems like a waste.”

MacLellan said COVID-19 has showed that companies don’t want all their employees working under one roof anymore, and it would be more beneficial to apply for funding to renovate, repair or retrofit existing municipal buildings, such as the Joint Operations Centre.

Ward 3 Councillor, Paul Foster agreed and said it is important to “not put all our eggs in one basket” with the grant application and it should include requests for repairs, retrofits and upgrades to other municipal buildings. He said his main concern is Council missing out on an opportunity for funding.

“I don’t want to dilute this [motion], I don’t want to confuse it, I simply want to look at the spectrum of potential options for repairs or maintenance or upgrades to buildings we currently own,” Foster said.

Ward 4 Councillor Fran Sainsbury said the motion shouldn’t be modified or changed, as it will help bring Council closer to having a new municipal office they all can be proud of.

“I feel that we’ve got to stop kicking the can down the road if this is an opportunity to do this building and the one complaint that some members of Council who haven’t supported it had was the cost. So, let’s find out the cost, let’s apply for the grant. We may not get it in the end anyway,” she noted.

“I really think we should put our eggs into one basket for this particular grant, there will be lots more grants.”

Sainsbury said she cannot support fixing the current Administration Centre due to its poor condition.

“It serves no purpose anymore, not as it relates to parking, washrooms, health and safety or anything else. It would just be throwing away good money after that,” she remarked.

Harrison McIntyre said to Council it is their obligation to apply for the Administration Centre funding on behalf of taxpayers because it’s an investment into the community and they’d be doing them a disservice otherwise.

“As Councillor Sainsbury said, there was a lot of discussion about the cost of the Administration Centre and taking that to heart, it’s important that we do this for the future of the community, that we find the money that is already out there,” Harrison McIntyre continued.

“If we don’t apply for it, it will be invested in another community. None of us are experts, none of us knows what the government is going to favour in terms of projects.”

General Manager of Corporate Services Lori Bedford said she can’t begin to guess why the provincial government selects the projects it funds when looking at the Town’s most recent approved applications for grants.

“I’m sure the province might have an agenda, but I am absolutely not aware and have not seen a pattern to be able to foresee that,” noted Bedford.

Ward 2 Councillor Michael Beattie added it’s not helpful for members of Council to speculate as to what might happen with the grant application and he doesn’t think it’s wise to add projects or items to the motion and it should instead be approved as is.

“This motion simply as its written is to apply for funding. It’s not to make a political decision or to decide on where an Administration Centre is going to be; it’s to apply for funding,” he said.

“I think we should go back to the simplicity of the motion itself and if there’s other members of Council who wish to apply for other projects they can simply do that by passing a motion themselves.”

MacLellan, Deputy Mayor Norcross and Ward 8 Councillor Alan Lacey opposed the motion while Beattie, Harrison McIntyre, Sainsbury, Ward 1 Councillor Wayne Noye and Ward 5 Councillor Donna Jebb supported it, 6-3.

By Sam Odrowski
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter


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