Millroy: A risk I believe is worth taking

By the time you read this a plan to save the YMCA, which has operated in this city since the year 1900 but was slated to cease operations on May 15, will probably have been approved.

On the heels of an unnamed charitable foundation offering to put up $2 million for the purchase of the building, City CAO Tom Vair was to have submitted a report to city council on Monday that said if the deal was approved the Y would enter into a $100,000 a year lease agreement with the foundation with the city as guarantor.

I naturally support the proposal since the Y has played such a prominent role in this city for so long, with so many in our community having taken advantage of what it has offered.

But, as you probably expected, I do have a couple of comments.

Vair said in his report that, “Should the YMCA begin to encounter financial difficulties, the city will seek the ability to intervene and appoint a new board of directors and take other steps to ensure operations can be sustained and maintained.”

He also said that there was some risk in the city being responsible for the lease payments if the Y can’t meet them.

In regard to the city seeking the ability to appoint a new board of directors if the Y begins to encounter difficulties, I would suggest it do that now.

The present board, seemingly absent as members of the community stepped forward to try to save the Y, should be asked to resign en masse.

They saw the ship going down and did nothing about it; the cry that this was prevented by some legal matter being so absurd it never should have been said.

Although under the agreement the city will have representation on the board, I believe a new board, possibly partially made up of some who were part of the successes of the past, is needed to oversee the ship coming up to calm waters.

In regard to the city guaranteeing the Y’s lease payments, that, of course, considering what has just occurred, would, as Vair said, come with some risk.

However, it is a risk I believe is worth taking. The Y is too important to this city to just let it slip away.
And anyway, it is not as if council has any problem spending money, $6-$7 million of taxpayers dollars going into the downtown plaza that all the polls said taxpayers didn’t want and at least $18 million going toward rebuilding Queen Street East.

Saving the Y, to me, is a much more worthwhile project.

“It should be stressed that the ultimate success and continued operation of the YMCA is now in the hands of the community,” Vair wrote. “Should the community support the YMCA with its membership drive, the YMCA can continue to operate.”

This suggested membership drive exemplifies the shortcomings of the present board. Realizing it was in trouble about three years ago because membership was dwindling because of Covid, it should at that time have instituted a drive to get members back and launched an advertising campaign to attract new ones.
If this had been done then, the way back would not be so torturous now.

With the current building being aged, it was constructed in 1965, Vair said a decision will have to be made as whether to refurbish or build new.

Somehow I think refurbishing will be the preferred route. With costs of construction and material being so high, I can’t see it possible to raise the money that would be required to replace the present premises.
But it will not be cheap to refurbish.

The building would apparently require nearly $1 million in upgrades, which would include replacing the boilers. The Y is applying for $495,000 from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation , which require matching dollars.

The main thing in all this, of course, is that it appears closure has been headed off and, if the community continues to step up, there is a future for the Y here.

I FIGURED WHEN COUNCIL voted last year to upgrade Queen Street at a total cost of $18 million, the work to be done in three projects that might stretch over as many as five years, that something was amiss.
It didn’t seem to me that in estimating costs at $6 million for each of the three projects, no thought had been given to the fact that costs just seem to naturally rise year over year.

I couldn’t see the $6 million scheduled for this year bringing the same amount of work and distance on the street five years along. For that matter, even two years along.

Heck, it turns out they didn’t even hold for this year.

The lowest bid, from Avery Construction, came in at $9 million. Avery got the contract but only at $6.2 million. Instead of rebuilding Pim Street to Bruce, as originally intended, the project will now cover only three blocks of Queen Street East, from Brock Street to Elgin Street.

We haven’t been told how much over the $18 million city taxpayers will now be facing but with at least five projects now being required to complete the rebuild, even if they came in at $6 million each, which is extremely doubtful considering the time completion will now take and with costs rising each year, it would appear the taxpayer will have to take a hit of at least $30 million.

It might be time for council to think about tightening the purse strings a bit.

2 thoughts on “Millroy: A risk I believe is worth taking

  1. You want council to tighten purse strings yet you’re alright taking money for a service that a small fraction of the city uses ??? With that logic you should run for council you’d fit right in!!

  2. You’re right about the need to appoint a new board; I’m surprised that no one on Council insisted on that. City Council and staff are becoming more cavalier about spending taxpayer dollars with each successive project, with little or no accountability, to the point where it’s now so ridiculous I don’t even write my Councillors any more. The multi-million downtown plaza operates half day a week. Taxpayer dollars are being thrown at the YMCA, thereby rewarding poor leadership, and we don’t even know who the organization is that is receiving our largesse … unbelievable!

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