6 – 1 recorded vote
At a special meeting on Wednesday, December 21, members of Town of St. Marys Council voted to deny a request for funding from the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum (CBHFM). The organization was seeking a grant from the Town to support a 6.2 million dollar expansion of its current site into a museum campus. The CBHFM approached Council in February to request a one-time $550,000 capital funding contribution and an additional $150,000 per year to permanently support the new museum project’s annual operating budget. The CBHFM also asked that the annual contribution of $150,000 start immediately to support organization capacity building and fundraising. These costs would be added to the Town’s current contributions to the CBHFM, which include annual operating support in the form of cash and inkind services. Council’s decision to deny the request was made after careful consideration of the legal and economic reviews that were undertaken as part of the Town’s due diligence process. The studies were completed by two external consultants to help identify potential risks presented by the CBHFM’s proposal. While the reports recognized the significance of the CBHFM in St. Marys, both concluded that the proposal was missing information that would help the Town better understand the plan and its probability of future success. Given the findings of the legal and economic reviews, Council had reservations about the financial risks associated with the CBHFM’s proposal. Council also had concerns about how the requested contribution to the CBHFM might impact the Town’s ability to fund other important projects. The motion to deny the request was moved by Coun. Don Van Galen and seconded by Coun. Tony Winter. A recorded vote was taken with all but Coun. Lynn Hainer voting in favour of the motion. Coun. Hainer noted that Council will be spending a large amount on refurbishing Cadzow and this will not see a large increase in tourists to St. Marys as the Hall of Fame would. Coun. Bill Osborne said that it was his understanding that the vote was either to support or deny the request and not whether other options are available. He said that he is in favour of the Hall but not the financial request at this time. “Council has a responsibility to wisely spend taxpayer’s dollars. Without a plan that instills confidence, we could not support this request,” said Mayor Al Strathdee. “We have to consider the situation and needs of every taxpayer when considering a request of this size. We are working on bringing infrastructure up to standard, while also evaluating the condition of current assets in terms of needs for maintenance and capital improvement.” He continued: “These are real issues for every taxpayer and they are very costly. I talk to citizens every day that are struggling with current costs, who are on fixed incomes, are single parents or are in job transitions. A key part of Council’s decision was that we could not afford to burden St. Marys’ taxpayers with the CBHFM proposal while we address all of the Town’s capital needs.” After the vote the Hall of Fame issued the following official statement: “We are disappointed by the Council vote, especially coming in the wake of demonstrated support for the project in town and through our national and international community of partners and benefactors. We are confident that we brought forward a realistic, achievable plan to bring economic growth and vitality to our town and regret that those benefits were not embraced. The Board will meet immediately to consider the results of the vote; the rationale behind it; the comments we heard; the most logical next steps in our development, and the benefits we can bring to our host community. We will provide updates on those discussions in the New Year”.