SEGUIN TWP. – The township has made another offer to the Foley Agricultural Society board to take over ownership of its agricultural hall, and then renovate the building.
The increased budget for renovations hinges on a grant application to the federal government. The $425,000 submission deadline for the Community Infrastructure Improvement Fund is August 24. Grants are only being dispersed for work on municipally-owned properties.
This, though, comes at the Foley Agricultural Society is at its most hectic time of year planning for the upcoming fall fair and its upcoming 50th anniversary celebrations , said board president Janet Borneman.
The board has considered the township’s offer, but isn’t ready to make a decision yet on handing over ownership, said Borneman, adding that the price tag of the renovations isn’t the society’s concern as that would be a municipal project.
The township has a contingency plan in place in case it doesn’t hear back from the Foley Agricultural Society to meet the application deadline with a different project.
The township proposes putting almost $1.28 million into the Foley Agricultural Hall to renovate it and incorporate a municipal library and agricultural society office.
“In my opinion (this is) a very significant investment into that building that will make it state of the art and better than other (municipal) building,” said township chief administrative officer Tom Stockie.
The project relies on the society turning over ownership of the building, while retaining access to the back lots where horse competitions take place and maintaining guaranteed use for holiday events and the fall fair.
The township and community group are in ongoing negotiations to consider the transfer of ownership.
The society’s loss of ownership of the building, and therefore its source of revenue and opportunity to apply for government grants, has the board considering any decisions carefully while it looks for alternative revenue sources, said Borneman.
“Basically, what the township is asking is we hand over our building and the equipment that is in it and walk away from it,” said Borneman.
Last year, the Foley Task Force, which included members of the agricultural board, proposed a $6.1 million project that included a new fire hall and community centre with built-in library. Under that proposal, the agriculture society would have handed over ownership of the property. The $6.1 million project was turned down this spring by the township, with a price tag that by far exceeded the $900,000 budgeted by council, and the task force disbanded.
The township made an offer last month to partner with the agricultural society and put $850,000 into the existing building, plus $685,000 for a new fire hall.
“The cost of the project has nothing to do with the agricultural society, it’s how it impacts on us. If (the township) had gone with the proposal the task force had put forth they would not be doing shovel in the ground until 2013, was my understanding. Next year is our 50th anniversary and we have some big things planned. They want to have shovel in the ground this fall and that’s going to impact those activities as well.”
Even with the deadline for the federal grant application looming, the society needs to examine how it’ll replace lost income streams from renting the facility out, and other potential government grants, before it can sign on the dotted line, said Borneman.
“We certainly are aware the township has an August deadline to get their funding application in, but having said that this is our busiest time of the year because we’re preparing for the fair and unfortunately the alternative plan (for funding) that we hoped to have in place didn’t pan out for us. Just as the township has to own the building and lands to get their funding, for the agricultural society to apply for any grants or funding we also have to own our land and building. So it’s kind of a catch-22 situation.”
Borneman said the society would like closure the ongoing ownership negations, which would put an end not only to the on-going pressure on the township and the board, with some general members not wanting to see the building they donated sweat, time and money to build switch hands.
“It will be nice to know one way or the other so the agricultural society and the township knows how to move ahead,” she said. “For us, it’s a case we need to know how we’re going to focus our energies to fundraise and for the township they need to know whether or not they’re going to have the building to apply for that grant or whether they’ll have to apply for another grant for a different building. So, both parities would like it to be done.”
If the township doesn’t hear from the agricultural society by its next meeting, at which time council could approve the application, the township could apply to increase accessibility at the Rosseau Memorial Hall or expand the new Foley fire hall project to include a municipal library.
Councillor Alex Chidley, who sits on the agricultural board as a private citizen, didn’t comment during the debate.
The Community Infrastructure Improvement Fund is $150 million over two years the province has dedicated to municipalities for repairs to existing infrastructure.