Trying to turn a turnip into a community jewel

On the 20th of this month, the window for proposals to renovate the Wilson Farmhouse will close.

One of the main contenders held a meeting recently to invite ideas and suggestions to renovate the building into a community centre of sorts. Regardless of what the people who live in the area want – almost 100 per cent want it demolished – this group persists in trying to turn a turnip into a jewel.

It claims the building is in good shape in contrast to city inspectors who say the foundation is built with stones, is occupied by a variety of vermin and is full of black mould.

Despite this, the proponents feel they can persuade the neighbours that their project is viable. This group is strongly supported by Coun. Ian Findlay, His fellow ward Councillor, Andy Van Hellemond, favours demolishing the house, as does Mayor Karen Farbridge.

Which brings us to a statement contained in a press release by this group.

“Wilson Farmhouse would be renovated and operational without spending a penny of taxpayer money. A social enterprise model would be imported with membership from at least four successful Social Enterprise Community Centres, from as far away as the Atlantis Leisure Centre in Oban, Scotland, and as close as the Guelph Youth Music Centre, whose renovation was also financed by a loan, using the building as security, resulting in a mortgage payment for the Centre.”

Okay let’s play banker.

This bunch strolls in and asks for a mortgage of $300,000. The purpose of the loan is to renovate the building to be used as a public structure that will become a community centre.

First, their so-called security for the mortgage is on a property they don’t own. The city owns it.

Second, will they pay the city for the property at a market value of $150,000 to obtain ownership?

If not, will the bank request the city guarantee repaying the mortgage?

What is the exact use of the building and supporting documentation of anticipated revenue?

Has the group had professional engineers and builders inspect the state of the building and the estimated cost of renovating?

This looks like another dip into the public trough

The city is not unfamiliar with this kind of proposal. It experienced a similar proposal when it agreed to guarantee the $500,000 mortgage on the indoor soccer dome. Last year the operator could not make the mortgage payments and city staff had to renegotiate new terms. Taxpayers are still on the hook for 15 years. To top it off, the dome and playing surface will need replacement by 2020.

This is nothing but a thinly disguised attempt to save the building as a heritage site. This council did the same thing in 2007 when it agreed to convert a derelict convent building into a new Guelph Civic Museum. The cost of this adventure will never been known because general operating funds were used over the five-year construction period to deal with serious, unanticipated construction problems. The published cost is some $16 million. There was money spent that was not attributed to the convent renovation.

That experience was a harbinger of the Farbridge administration’s determination to change Guelph into an overstaffed, debt-ridden and waste management disaster that citizens will be paying for, for years to come.

These policies have choked off many parts of the city because of the administration’s emphasis on turning the downtown area into a “vibrant place” for all Guelph citizens to enjoy. A place in which millions have already been spent in human resources and infrastructure projects. The city bribes developers to build condo towers with tax inducements and deferred development fees.

Memories are made of this

The administration failed to build a new downtown library they promised in the 2006 election campaign. Or start the Wilson Street Parking garage. Or build the South End recreation centre that was promised more than 10 years ago.

But they did reconstruct lower Wyndham Street over two years, with an underpass that will not accommodate large commercial vehicles.

Friends, have faith. The administration spent $10 million on the Clair Road emergency services centre that police now are vacating. Instead the council will give the green light to the $34 million facelift of police headquarters before the fall election.

Do you believe it’s time to stop this excessive spending and taxing of citizens? Join GrassRootsGuelph.com and link up with fellow citizens determined to return fiscal and common sense responsibility to the next council.

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4 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

4 responses to “Trying to turn a turnip into a community jewel

  1. Glen N. Tolhurst

    Do the councilors wanting to keep the house have any “skin” (money of their own) in the game or are they just playing with other people’s (a.k.a. taxpayers) money? Are they willing to move their RRSP’s into funding this game? Too many grandiose strategic visions emanate from a financially illiterate portion of council. Time for them to “put up or shut up”!

  2. Jerry

    It’s just like the living wall in city hall.Big deal about it when first constructed,
    then the wall dies and instead of saying “they will just buy plants for city hall.(big savings for the taxpayers)
    They decide that they will spend 1000/month on maintenance.Good money
    thrown into the fire pit.I am all for saving things for reuse but there comes
    a point when even God said he will wipe the earth clean and start over after
    Noah’s flood.
    Maybe this mayor and council should read the bible once and a while for
    some ideas then just throwing money at something and hoping for the
    best.
    But i guess our great flood (renewal )will come in the fall when the election
    happens.
    Until then hold on for a bumpy ride.

  3. geo

    OK it’s deadline day. Who believes the house will now be torn down as per the wishes of the vast majority of taxpayers who live in the area?

  4. MS

    This taxpayer who lives ACROSS from the farm house hopes it is demolished.

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