Loyalist Township councillors had no trouble putting their pride on the shelf Monday, directing staff to go to the YMCA and explore how partnering with the organization could help the municipality find efficiencies.
Last month, council approved a $200,000 expenditure for a feasibility study and site concept plan that would see the township’s administrative offices moved to the site of W.J. Henderson Recreation Centre.
The feasibility study would address whether construction of a new municipal office at the Amherstview site could address overcrowding and mechanical issues at the Odessa township office while fixing critical infrastructure needs at the recreation centre with many pool components reaching the end of their useful life cycle.
Without upgrades to the ineffective pool pump, deteriorating plumbing infrastructure, and an ineffective HVAC unit, municipal staff estimate that it costs an additional $105,500 annually to operate the 45-year-old pool annually. Upgrades could also include accessible, family change rooms to increase marketability.
Councillors had heard an estimated cost of $14 million to build a community hub that would take into account the municipality’s needs to fix the pool and replace its administrative offices, but also accommodate a daycare centre, various social services, and a daycare space. The potential cost led to some heated discussion around the council table about the need for public input and about whether decisions should wait for the new council.
Bath councillor Ed Daniliunas had that discussion in mind as he went to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference in Ottawa last week. He attended a session on Tuesday lead by Debbie Sevenpifer, the chief financial officer of the YMCA of GTA about how the organization is partnering with municipalities to deliver services.
Daniliunas said he heard about partnerships in several Ontario municipalities, each tailored by local programming and infrastructure needs.
He said a model used in Vaughan really caught his attention because the YMCA paid one-third of capital costs for the areas it uses for recreation and health programming.
“Furthermore, they absorb 100 per cent of the operating costs. They do all the programming and infrastructure,” Daniliunas told his peers. “All of this is negotiable. I guess, if we were to approach the YMCA to discuss such opportunities it would be adapted to our unique needs and that might result in additional facilities such as daycare, gym facilities, or weight rooms.”
He put a motion on the floor to have staff explore with the YMCA and YWCA what partnership opportunities exist and how they might be applied to Loyalist’s plans for a community hub and argued and said now is the time to proceed.
“With the architectural work starting now, this may influence what direction they go and what elements they consider,” he said. “Cost was a bit of an issue that was discussed in the past on numerous occasions. This is one way to reduce some of that cost.”
Deputy mayor Ric Bresee — who chaired the meeting — asked Daniliunas if his motion would include other groups that do similar work. He responded that he doesn’t know of any other groups that would make a similar commitment to partner on capital and operational costs, but would welcome staff to explore any options that exist.
Councillor Penny Porter, who voted against the feasibility study because she believed it was premature, supported the motion.
“I think this is a very good idea. I’m glad you brought this forward,” she said.
Councillor Duncan Ashley said he, too, would support the motion because it would examine the issue of costs related to the project. He cautioned, however, that he would be leery about entering into partnerships or building in the current political climate.
“I have added concerns — though maybe members of staff or council that attended AMO can shed further light on this — in view of the recent developments with the provincial government and the arbitrary halving of council in Toronto and whatnot about the status of Loyalist Township as a municipality and of this hub in the future.”
Bresee said he had an opportunity to talk with Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark who gave assurances no further adjustments to municipalities were on the agenda beyond those recently passed.
“I realize that could change tomorrow as well,” Bresee said.
Daniliunas said he’d heard Premier Doug Ford make similar statements.
Ashley wasn’t entirely convinced, stating he could recall a time when he sat on Amherst Island council and a Progressive Conservative member made similar promises, only to see Ernie Eves push amalgamation forward later. He said that’s a point for council and staff to consider as they make plans for the large capital project.
Daniliunas’ motion regarding the YMCA passed unanimously.