More on Busy Council Meeting

The first regular Council meeting in 2024 was a marathon.  In addition to passing the budget, re-considering Stormwater fees and taking action on Transition House (see earlier reports on this blog), Council also heard an update on the leasing of the Memorial Arena as a Fire fighters’ museum, approved a request to make an exemption on a downtown sign that contravenes Heritage rules and heard about a significant increase in Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.  Firefighters gave a verbal report with little information but there is much more detailed information in their planned report to the Community Services, Protection, and Economic Development Standing Committee on February 7. (See the Agenda in Resources).  The sign is for Jacqueline Pennington’s new office and the FOI report comes from Keith Hearst, Grant and Policy Writer in Brent Larmer’s Department.

Memorial Arena

In April 2021, an Ad Hoc committee was set up to explore options for what should be done with the Memorial Arena which had been closed in 2019. The first choice was to lease it to the “Canadian Firefighters Museum” (CFFM) which had previously been located in Port Hope. The museum opened in 1984 and closed in 2018 and has been on hold pending finding a new location.  The Town agreed to a Lease and subject to Council approval, it’s hoped it will be signed by June 2024.

Lease highlights

  • Term: July 1 2024 – June 30th, 2044: 20 years
  • Responsibility for Maintenance and Repairs. Town: building envelope (roof, walls, doors, windows, foundation); CFFM: interior Premises.
  • Utilities and Services: CFFM
  • Insurance: CFFM insures Premises, plus compensates Town for the overhead cost of Town insurance.
  • Rent: $18,200/annum + HST (Utilities extra).
  • Termination clause: 365 days’ notice (generally; specific clauses vary)
  • Improvements and Alterations: Interior (Premises) CFFM; Exterior (building envelope) Town.

The Town is leasing the building, not transferring ownership, and it will continue to maintain the exterior. One factor is that the roof top has been leased out to a company until 2035 for solar panels. In addition, the Electrical service (transformer etc.) for both the Memorial Area and the adjacent Jack Heenan Arena is located in the Memorial Arena.

Usage of the parking lot will be shared with the Jack Heenan Arena which is used for Curling.

Sign for Jacqueline Pennington Real Estate Brokerage Office

Jacqueline’s new Office is located at 17 King Street East and she wants to use a sign to indicate what it is.  Since it’s located in a Heritage District, application was made to the Heritage Advisory Committee and although the sign looks good (everyone seems to agree on that – lettering is illuminated around the edges), it does not conform to the current (old) rules for signs in the Heritage District.  The vote by the advisory committee to approve an exemption was split 50 – 50 so was therefore not approved.  There is a whole lot of documentation on the proposed sign in the Council Agenda (See Resources) – included is a recommendation for approval by the DBIA. Council was asked to make a final decision – which they did with a vote to approve an exemption in this case.  A separate motion was also passed to review the By-Law and Guidelines for signs.

Freedom of Information Reports

The Provincial Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA) imposes a legal obligation upon municipalities – the short version is that it requires Municipalities to provide public access to information with certain limitations and time limits.  The Province also requires an annual report to the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario (IPC) on FOI requests received throughout the year. Statistics provided to the IPC include the number and type of requests received, fees collected, exemptions used, and how long it took to complete each request (normally 30 days).

The report that was provided to Council said that there were 27 requests in 2023 compared to 11 in 2022.  Also, over the period since 2010, there has been an upward trend (see full report in Resources) and the fees charged (as permitted) do not adequately cover the time spent.  Although the Association of Municipal Clerk and Treasurers of Ontario (AMCTO) is asking the Province to “modernize” the relevant legislation, the staff report notes that “the size, scope, and volume of requests received in 2023 has put significant strain on the limited staff resources available to respond to requests as each request must be completed over and above individual staff duties.”  As a result “additional resources may be required to ensure that the Town continues to fulfill all its legal obligations regarding FOI request processing.”  It’s not spelled out whether this additional staffing is included in the recently approved budget.

The report on FOI did not get a whole lot of discussion.

Other items were approved including increases to user fees for Community Services and Marriage ceremonies – it was a busy night.

Resources

Blog Reports

Town Meeting links

Other Links

Addendum

At today’s (7 Feb, 2024) Standing Committee Meeting, Mayor Lucas Cleveland said that there are other options for the Firefighters’ Museum that should be explored.  He did not specify where or when – except for “very soon”.  Lucas also emphasized that the Town is still on the hook for up to $1M in Capital costs to maintain the building over the 20 year lease.

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museum supporter
22 days ago

The town leased the arena roof space to the solar company and gets a small rent from them. I understand they will also inherit the equipment at the end of the lease in 2035. If they now lease the unused interior space to the museum it will benefit the entire community by drawing tourists to Cobourg, providing a few jobs, providing loads of volunteer opportunities, provide work for local contractors (upgrading the facility). Yes Cobourg will have to maintain the building shell, but at the end of the lease they will get back a building in far better condition, suitable for many more uses.

Bryan
Reply to  museum supporter
22 days ago

Museum Supporter,

Rent: $18,200 per year: $1,517 per month.
What is the estimated TMI and what services are provided?
I doubt there are commercial properties (larger than shoe boxes) available at this price.
Renters are hard pressed to find apartments at this price, and the memorial arena is much bigger than an apartment.
Is there an escalation clause? How much?

The lease term is 20 years. Is the CFFM financially viable?
Are pro-forma financial statements available?
What happens if the CFFM defaults?

Based on past experience, the Town is poor at negotiating contracts.
Perhaps Northam’s property manager (contractor) should negotiate the deal.

Last edited 22 days ago by Bryan
museum supporter
Reply to  Bryan
21 days ago

The rent is low because the place is basically a brick barn without insulation, heat or cooling. It does not meet accessibility standards and all of the internal systems need upgrading. The museum would take over all utilities, insurance and inside maintenance. It would also pay for snow clearing and grass cutting. This would relieve Cobourg of over $50K / year in upkeep expenses. The museum would also pour money into leasehold improvements such as insulation, climate controls and accessibility issues, plus upgrade the sprinkler system, fire alarm system and burglary alarm system. All of this while providing Cobourg with anew tourist attraction and the spin-off benefits that come with that. This lease will closely mirror the one the curling club has on a much newer building in far better condition. As with most leases there are exit clauses that can be used by either side, if things begin to go sideways. As for the viability of the CFFM, it operated in Port Hope for 35 years and ended up in the black, having received very little support from any level of government. Given that all Non-governmental museums struggle to make enough money to keep going, it has a pretty good track record. That won’t answer all of your questions, but you can’t seriously expect us to negotiate a lease in a public forum such as this. Those negotiations are confidential.

Cobourg taxpayer
23 days ago

They must be exhausted.

Sandpiper
23 days ago

How much is the rent per sq ft at the Arena what is the TMI
on top of the rent ??
who ploughs the snow and salts the parking lot etc ?????

All things the Tax payers should and have a wright to know

small town Ontario
Reply to  Sandpiper
23 days ago

You can watch the Town of Cobourg video council meeting . Feb. 7th, 9:30-11:00am. Director Geerts? answered those questions and gave a very interesting slide presentation re rent and TMI. Taxes, Maintenance, Insurance, costs.