Board assures municipalities the Manor is ‘viable’
LITTLE CURRENT—Representatives from all of Manitoulin’s municipalities attended a special meeting at the municipally-owned Manitoulin Centennial Manor last Thursday evening to share their concerns or ask questions about the facility’s long-term viability. They also learned that of the Island’s three long-term care facilities, the Manor is the only one not facing a provincially-mandated rebuild in the fairly near future.
Chair Paul Moffatt, Assiginack mayor, opened the meeting by noting that it was called by request, “mostly by Ken Noland (reeve of Burpee and Mills).” He then invited questions from the floor, noting that he wasn’t sure what to say as he saw no problems with the viability of the Manor.
Reeve Noland began by asking for a copy of the Manor’s long-term asset management plan.
Keith Clement, Extendicare (the company that runs Manor operations) senior administrator, explained to the group that the Extendicare engineer was at the Manor in mid-August for its annual engineering report, but that they did not have a written report yet. The engineer did note, however, that the Manor has seen significant improvements and said the primary concern is flooring replacement. This is the Manor’s latest fundraising push with the ‘Another Step Forward’ campaign, Mr. Clement explained.
“He was impressed with the improvements that have occurred,” Mr. Clement reiterated. “We should have something in writing by the next board meeting.”
Reeve Noland asked about the Manor’s aging fire system and the estimated cost of replacement of $100,000.
It was explained to the reeve that the fire system was not identified by the engineer as a cause of concern. The chair also noted that with the rebuild of many Extendicare homes, there are plenty of spare parts for the Manor’s fire system that can be found, which is why it’s not listed as a concern.
“Is it a report or an asset management plan?” Reeve Noland asked of the engineer’s report. Mr. Clement responded that it was a report that identifies any deficiencies in the long-term care home.
Gore Bay councillor Jack Clark said he saw the value of the report, but said it was not the same as having an asset management plan.
“We have a 50-year-old building here where all the infrastructure is replaced as needed,” Mayor Moffatt said, noting the replacement of the heating and ventilation systems, elevators, kitchen equipment and more. “This is home to 60 elderly people on a regular basis with a 30-person waitlist. I don’t think there’s anything that makes it not viable.”
Central Manitoulin councillor Pat McDonald, a Manor board member, suggested asking Extendicare if an asset management plan is possible.
“When we first asked for a meeting, we were told we would have it after the engineer’s report,” Gordon/Barrie Island reeve Lee Hayden said, questioning why they were having a meeting without a report.
“We thought we’d have it by now too,” the chair responded.
The conversation turned to some minor squabbling over the wording of the letter from the Manor board to the municipalities and the timing of the report.
Councillor McDonald reminded the group that what prompted the meeting was the large capital expenditure the municipalities were faced with for the replacement of the Manor’s heating and cooling system, which came in the form of a one-time capital funding request. It is her understanding, she added, that there were some West End municipalities that would rather have capital requests than a Manor reserve fund.
“Well, that was one of the issues,” Reeve Noland said, noting that Burpee and Mills has its own reserve fund for the Manor set aside, but asked what the other municipalities do.
Northeast Town mayor Al MacNevin said he’d stayed quiet long enough and felt it was time to speak up. “When I was on the board, Pentti (Palonen, former Burpee and Mills reeve and current councillor) went on forever every budget about not wanting reserves as they’d been putting money away for years for emergency expenditures.”
“There was a split among the municipalities,” Mayor MacNevin continued. “Letters went out to everyone, and some didn’t reply for six months. The board has continued on this way because that’s what they were told to do.”
Mayor MacNevin went on to say that the first real emergency the Manor has faced was the replacement of the HVAC system. The bill to Burpee and Mills, he said, was just over $4,000. “That shouldn’t have an impact on your levy; you have the money.”
“It failed after 45 years,” Mayor MacNevin said of the HVAC system. “The next thing that breaks down don’t panic—it’s part of the plan.”
He told the group that the best thing for the Manor is to establish a reserve, just like the Manitoulin-Sudbury District Services Board has, or even the Manitoulin Planning Board.
“If you’re going to go with just fix-it-when-it-breaks, then just eat it, folks,” he added.
Reeve Noland brought the meeting back to the asset management plan.
“The board, in its wisdom over the years, has not done that,” Mayor Moffatt said.
Councillor Clark said the Manor could also take a loan and pay it off.
“You don’t need to take a loan when there are eight municipalities to pay,” Mayor Moffatt chortled incredulously.
“Well, that’s what the government does,” Councillor Clark responded.
“Well, if that’s how we run then we’re in trouble,” Mayor Moffatt said.
Central Manitoulin mayor Richard Stephens told the group that he’d looked at the financials from 2015 to 2017. In 2015 the municipal share was less than $6,000; in 2016 it was just over $12,000 and in 2017 it was almost $54,000, noting the one-time capital expense for the HVAC system.
“So what’s the next big expense for this building?” Mayor Stephens asked. “Then it’s the problem of the owners, the municipalities, to budget,” he added, noting that it should stay within the realm of the municipalities to budget for the Manor.
Councillor McDonald asked if an asset management plan could be had from Extendicare, with Mr. Clement responding that an itemized list of the infrastructure’s life expectancy should not be a problem.
Mr. Clement pointed to the hard work of the Manor’s dedicated volunteer fundraising team headed by Wendy Gauthier which has saved municipal money through the raising of funds for the new call bell system, patient ceiling lifts and now, flooring.
Ms. Gauthier introduced herself to the crowd and shared how she’s helped to fundraise over $200,000 so far in three-and-a-half years, with the goal of the clients’ quality of life in mind, while saving the municipalities money.
Billings councillor Brian Parker asked for a breakdown of where the residents are from.
To be financially viable, Councillor Clark said he understands there’s an unspoken number of 120 residents needed—double the Manor, the Manitoulin Lodge and the Wikwemikong Nursing Home’s number of beds. “So does that mean it will always be a struggle? If something doesn’t change it will be a constant struggle.”
Mr. Clement explained the Manor is a ‘class A’ home meaning that it’s not required to be rebuilt. He agreed that there are more efficiencies to be had with more beds. However, he said, the Manor does not require a provincially-mandated rebuild while the other two Island homes will in the fairly near future, “So that will be a discussion for them.” He did note, however, “that there are all kinds of issues that come from increasing the size.” (EDITOR’S NOTE: The Expositor contacted the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and confirmed that both the Manitoulin Lodge and Wikwemikong Nursing Home will require rebuilds by 2025.)
“If you’re worried about replacing a furnace, I don’t think building a $7 million facility is going to be much fun,” Mayor MacNevin quipped.
“I see a few municipalities who would like to keep reserves for emergency funds,” the mayor continued. “My municipality knows the Manor should have its own reserves.” Mayor MacNevin suggested that if the Manor continues to work without a reserve, then it should properly equip its board members with the information their councils need to make budgeting decisions. He pointed to Northeast Town representative Dawn Orr, who shared with her council the HVAC concerns long before they happened.
Councillor McDonald added that perhaps the next council representatives should think hard about who sits on the Manor board and what skill sets they offer.
Reeve Noland pointed to the Manor’s strategic plan, which includes an asset management plan that hasn’t been followed up on. “I feel your strategic direction isn’t happening.”
Ian Anderson, representing Cockburn Island, commended Ms. Gauthier on her fundraising efforts.
Councillor Clark furthered Mr. Anderson’s comments, adding that he believes the staff and volunteers of the Manor are doing a “first rate job. I think the staff here are nothing short of saints. I know how tough it is.” He also commended the board for their work at being conscientious budgeters and said he apologized if his questions came off as confrontational.
Councillor Clark did note that there were very few West End residents at the Manor, “but we continue to pay. When we come to you with questions, it’s on behalf of our constituents.”
Councillor Bill Baker, a Manor board representative from Gore Bay, said that a lack of West End residents would be by choice.
Councillor McDonald thanked Councillor Clark for his acknowledgements.
Reeve Noland pointed to the Manor’s constitution, saying that it calls for an annual meeting with the municipalities and that this should be happening.
The chair said no one has ever called for one, with the rebuttal from the crowd that it should be an automatic thing, as per the constitution.