LITTLE CURRENT—The call for a meeting to discuss the ‘long-term viability’ of the Manitoulin Centennial Manor has been in the works for a few months by some Western Manitoulin municipalities, with a date to be set for some time in September.
With an urgent replacement needed of the Manor’s 50-year-old heating and cooling system, a one-time bill went out to all Island municipalities to cover the cost of the $75,000 replacement, over and above the municipalities’ budgeted amounts for support of the municipally-owned long-term care facility. This had some municipalities questioning the Manor’s long-term viability and wondering what other unbudgeted-for surprises might be in store for their councils.
Following last week’s monthly meeting of the Manor board, chair Paul Moffatt noted that the board had received three letters, all from West End municipalities. Gordon-Barrie Island asked that they begin a “dialogue” with the board, Burpee and Mills asked for an evening meeting to discuss concerns while Billings, because of an email they received from Burpee and Mills, also asked for an evening meeting with the board.
“My suggestion is that, because our councils will be in a lame duck position, this be put over to the next board,” Mr. Moffatt suggested.
Board member Connie Suite, representing Billings, said her municipality would likely not respond at this time.
Wendy Gauthier reminded the board that the initial request for a meeting came in February while Dawn Orr noted that a potential meeting has been deferred once before.
“Supposing there is a new board, it wouldn’t be fair to get into this type of discussion which could delay it for a year,” said board member Aurel Rivet. “I think this board is better suited to do it now.”
Pat McDonald of Central Manitoulin suggested writing a letter back, explaining that a full engineer’s report is expected this summer which would give a better snapshot into what the Manor may or may not need in future.
“I hate to keep putting the municipalities off,” she added. “It gives the impression that we’re hiding something.”
Bill Baker of Gore Bay said he thinks the concern is from the one-time charge (for the new heating and cooling system), whether more surprises can be expected and how it all pertains to their budgeting process.
“Once we have the engineer’s report, we need to get on it; we can’t leave them hanging,” Mr. Baker said. “They are good partners and we need to treat them as such.”
“It was a one-time thing,” Ms. McDonald stressed of the ask for funding. “But how can anyone know?” She suggested building a slight year-after-year increase in to the municipal billing.
Mr. Moffatt reminded the board that the agreement does have a provision for the creation of a reserve.
Currently, the Manor does not have a reserve due to a pushback from the same West End municipalities who are currently calling for a meeting to discuss viability. When the topic of a reserve was raised a number of years ago, the idea was shot down with the councils of the day saying they had their own reserve funds for the Manor for just such emergency spending.
“We should offer them the opportunity to meet,” Ms. McDonald added.
It was noted by Extendicare’s regional manager Keith Clement that the engineer would be coming at the end of July and that it wouldn’t be reasonable to expect a report until mid-August or early September.
“I think we should invite all of the municipalities,” Ms. McDonald said.
Mr. Baker agreed, as “I believe Gore Bay is of the same mind (as the other West End municipalities).”
The board agreed to host a meeting in the Manor chapel, with one representative invited from each municipality, to be held some time in September.