CENTRAL MANITOULIN – The Zoom screen for the September 23 meeting of Central Manitoulin council was unusually crowded as council dealt with a request from the Friends of the Mindemoya Old School (FOMOS) to have the deadline for their business proposal extended. Although FOMOS had received a favourable reception from council when they presented a business plan earlier this year, council had declined at that time to provide an extension, indicating that such an extension would be more appropriate closer to the deadline.
With the September deadline fast upon them, council dealt with the question of extending the deadline to next April.
A motion, moved by Councillor Derek Stephens and seconded by Councillor Dale Scott, “that council approves extending the deadline originally set for September 2021 for the Mindemoya Old School building be extended to April 2022 to allow the Friends of the Mindemoya Old School organization more time to further develop their business plan with confirmed funding sources and that pending the confirmation of these funding sources that the discussion of a lease agreement be revisited” was passed once the original motion from the property committee was amended by council.
As debate began, Councillor Stephens requested that a reference to “demolition” proceeding be removed from the original motion, pointing out that the deadline was not originally set for demolition, but rather for FOMOS to submit their business plan. “They did submit a business plan, they were then going out to get funding,” he said. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic hindered FOMOS’s ability to seek out those funds, with the extension of the deadline being considered to reflect those unforeseen challenges.
Councillor Steve Shaffer also questioned wording in the original motion that set April as when negotiations would begin on any lease agreement, pointing out that if FOMOS did receive adequate funding, they would likely wish to begin those negotiations earlier. Councillor Angela Johnston suggested simply removing the reference to April would suffice.
Councillor Stephens pointed out that, although FOMOS had an excellent business plan, the advent of the federal election had placed any confirmation of funding on hold.
There was then some debate on deadlines, as Mayor Richard Stephens suggested that the motion removed the stress of looming deadlines from the committee. Councillor Scott pointed out that there was still an April deadline in the motion. “I have nothing against the Old School,” said Councillor Scott. “So long as it is put to good use and not dragging us down as a municipality. If it can be a vital part of the community, that’s great, but we do have a deadline of April 22 (the property committee meeting date closest to the deadline in the motion).”
The motion passed with no dissent.