Council Agrees to Fire Fighters Museum Lease

As reported on Cobourg blog (see Resources), the Town is working with the Fire Fighters Museum Board to lease the Memorial Arena as their new location.  In a repeat report at the Council meeting on 28 February, the lease was again discussed with a report by Director Geerts and a verbal presentation from the Fire Fighters’ board (speaker not identified).  One key point as made by Director Geerts, is that the lease looks like a good use of the Arena and “we don’t have a better idea for the Arena”.  If the Arena is not leased, the Town would still have the cost of operating an empty building.  One new issue debated was the board’s request for free rent for the first two years followed by two years of deferred rent – that is, it would be paid spread over the remaining 16 years of the lease.

The proposed lease specifies a rent of $18,200 per year – a little less than that paid by the Curling club for the Jack Heenan Arena.  The Town would continue to be responsible for the exterior of the building but not the interior.  The reason for the 4 years without a rent payment is that it would take this time to get the museum set up and fully operational.  There are significant renovations required including making the building fully accessible. The estimated Capital Cost would be $850K but “could go as high as $1M”.  This would require fundraising and hopefully grants (source not identified but it is not the Town – probably Ontario’s Trillium).  Grants cannot be provided until a lease is signed.

Since there is a risk that fundraising goals would not be reached, there is a lease clause for termination by either party with 365 days notice.

Nicole Beatty expressed concern that the Fire Fighters’ Museum is not going through the agreed process for support of community groups.  As it stands, there have been NO approvals for grants to community groups in the 2024 budget (See this report).  The new process is that grants would first require a multi-year MOU with the Town.  However, in this case, after discussion, Councillors thought that this project was different and did not need to follow the grant process.

Council was generally supportive of the agreement with the Fire Fighters’ Museum as outlined in the Director’s report and voted 7-0 for staff to prepare a lease as outlined by the Director with the addition of the rent provisions in the first four years as described above. (See previous post on this – there’s a link in resources). The motion included authority for the Mayor and Clerk to sign the Lease after a legal review. The signed lease will come back to Council for information purposes.

Resources

Busy Council Meeting – Includes details of lease for Memorial Arena

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Rational
1 month ago

Interesting thought process between the Cobourg Leadership and the Port Hope Leadership.

Port Hope saw no future financially with the FF Museum and let it go. Cobourg snapped it up for $18K in rent, where it is obvious expenses will far exceed this amount.

Cobourg let the Highland Games plus 4,500+ attendance go after 60 years of tradition over parking concessions for two days. Port Hope snapped it up and couldn’t be more pleased with what it will bring to the Town.

I think Port Hope is the winner here, with its Council outsmarting Cobourg’s Council.

Last edited 1 month ago by Rational
Doug
1 month ago

In spite of all the comments below that criticism the Firefighter’s Museum ( they make some good points) BUT, I would still love to have a Firefighters Hall in Cobourg/Ontario. I loved the old one in Port Hope and I believe this one will be bigger and even better. I can see and imagine strutting into that big hall and looking at hundreds of very neat displays.
It will be great to have a place in our province to honour our Fire Fighters. Many have gone through very difficult situations and too many have lost their lives serving everyone of us.

Twopenniesworth
1 month ago

When we were asked how we would like to see this old rink used memory serves that not once
was Firefighter’s museum mentioned. There were uses that would have been beneficial to Cobourg residents and the youth of the town. Drop in centre for the young to get them away
from streets where drugs are freely available…indoors sports like basketball…tennis and
pickleball courts..indoor rolling skating..healthy activities not static displays.An indoor year
around market for locals to buy and sell…many more things I am sure.

You need to ask yourself why we’re even asked..the same as with the old Golden Plough..buying
Brookside..both places which would have benefitted Cobourg..using imagination.

I know we pay town employees to come up with ideas but I’m sure Cobourg has residents who
would be on committees to help make decisions to benefit locals.

It can’t be just the bottom line because I suspect the Fire museum will not benefit Cobourg’s finances greatly.

Would my other suggestion be a financial benefit probably not but it could just be a boon to those of us who live here or who worry about our youth.

Andre
Reply to  Twopenniesworth
1 month ago

we pay town employees to come up with ideas”. I only disagree on this one point.
Bureaucracy is not where good ideas come from nor is that its function. At best it can recognize an entrepreneurial business plan: sports, markets, trade shows etc.

Sandpiper
Reply to  Twopenniesworth
1 month ago

Well said —they did not Benefit Port Hope at all and they certainly did not put up a fight to keep them there Does the Town ever do back ground or Credit checks on these groups
of Non Profit Profiteers Do they meet and comply with all the recent changes to the Not For Profit Act
I doubt it !

Rob
Reply to  Twopenniesworth
1 month ago

TPW you are not wrong. This goes back to a point I made previously related to another post, the Town (as a business) doesn’t appear to have a cohesive and thoughtful strategy as it relates to urban planning. If the Tannery District, which has immense potential, is to become a walkable, sustainable, multi-purpose neighbourhood offering shops, residential properties, parks, sidewalks, recreational and green spaces, please explain how 20-year lease for a firefighters museum fits into the plan. The potential for the arena space, which now appears to be lost, was significant…imagine a venue for cultural and social events, perhaps permanent food and beverage markets with an onsite brew pub, Christmas and holiday markets that spill onto the surrounding streetscape, etc…

St. Lawrence Market : About Us (stlawrencemarket.com)
Eat & Drink – Time Out Market Montreal

This small picture, patchwork approach to planning is how towns like ours forever lose invaluable spaces to developers who are not thinking about building a community.

Bryan
Reply to  Rob
1 month ago

Rob,

I think the “Tannery” development is currently a planning fantasy.
As it currently stands:
-the Town owned property is brownfield
-several adjacent private industrial properties are also brownfield
-some adjacent private owners have indicated that they have no interest in participating in the Tannery project.

Perhaps it will be viable in another 20 years.

Lemon Cake
1 month ago

This raises so many questions. Is there a business plan for the Firefighters Museum? How viable is this initiative as a tenant for the town? This sounds like a lot of time and investment for only $18,000 a year – you can’t even get a one bedroom apartment in Cobourg for that. No disrespect meant to firefighters, but given the huge amount of new development here, is there no other option that might be better suited to meet the needs of a rapidly growing community?

Bryan
Reply to  Lemon Cake
1 month ago

Lemon Cake,
Good question about the business plan and the FFM’s financial viability.
There were “rumors” about this when they were in Port Hope.
The business plan and pro forma financials should be publicly available. Based on past experience, Town staff are poor at assessing this…..remember the NMAI. Town staff were all gung-ho until the financial info came out.
Perhaps Northam’s property management should negotiate the lease.

JimT
Reply to  Bryan
1 month ago

I assume you refer to “…waiving over $300,000 in fees and development charges due from North Medical Arts Inc.(NMAI)” building?

I mention this only to save a few dozen or more other readers having to scramble to try to find just what you are talking about.  

Bryan
Reply to  JimT
1 month ago

JimT,

Yes. That’s the one.

Carol
Reply to  Lemon Cake
1 month ago

I have no feelings one way or the other about the Museum. I do feel that the citizens should have been consulted as to ideas of the usage before giving it to the Museum. One big objection I have is the 18,000. per year. The Chamber of Commerce when they were in Dressler House (town owned) in the 90″s paid the town 15,000.00 per year. For the size of the arena I think the rent should have been higher. We are already subsidizing the CCC and we will be on the hook for all the outside repairs of this building including the roof. I don’t think the town staff really looked at this seriously they took the easy way out.

Bryan
Reply to  Carol
1 month ago

Carol,
The rent may be low, but the FFM is the only offer on the table
Wonder if the SWF will be billed to the FFM?

Last edited 1 month ago by Bryan
Cobourg taxpayer
1 month ago

How unfortunate that Director Geerts and other staff have “no better idea for the arena”. I have no problem with a firefighter museum but it sounds as if this may not even happen if grants and fundraising don’t raise enough money. This is prime property in Cobourg and no one can come up with any other options that could actually produce revenue for the town of Cobourg. Can someone remind me are there solar panels on the roof under contract for years?If not can’t the property be sold and developed?

Bryan
Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
1 month ago

CT,

Indeed there are solar panels on the arena’s roof. The roof space is rented by a solar panel company, so the Town gets some revenue from this (how much??). It is a long term contract. Don’t know how many years remain.

If the property was sold, the new owner would have to undertake the remaining contract or, the Town (or buyer) would have to pay the penalty for terminating the contract.

I believe there are joint utility services between the two arenas. This would have to be resolved if either arena was sold.

Aside from the low(??) rent ($1,517 per month), The Town may have to spend big bucks to fix the building structure.

I don’t understand NB’s comments about a grant(s) to a community group. This is a commercial transaction, no different than Northam (Town) leasing facilities to industrial/commercial clients.

I wonder if the SWM fee (tax) will be charged to the FFM?
It’s all hard surface and “commercial”. Could be a sizable amount

Kathleen
Reply to  Bryan
1 month ago

Good questions that need answering Bryan. Transparency is needed.
Why do I feel that this is going to be yet another failed investment opportunity?

Mark
Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
1 month ago

maybe we should also sell Victoria Hall to developers , it prime property 🤔
in 10-20 years , the land could be repurposed into park land which there will need to have
The town should not be in a business to make a profit but provide a better lifestyle

Bill Thompson
Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
1 month ago

Re keeping the homeless off the streets..Spring is just right around the corner with summer..and “tourist” season approaching.
It will be interesting to witness the effect it will have on the beach and local areas in town.with the homeless on the streets.