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Trillium Ford

Council looks to salvage relationship with Banting Foundation

Posted April 11, 2017

New Tecumseth councillors agreed yesterday morning to meet with the Sir Frederick Banting Legacy Foundation (SFBLF) to try and negotiate a new working arrangement following notice that the group wants to terminate its lease and operating agreement when it expires April 23.

In its place, the SFBLF has proposed a draft "service agreement" that consolidates all the terms and conditions, but puts the financial onus on the Town to pay for utilities and site maintenance.

"The existing lease is now five years old and increasingly out of sync with current site reality,"SFBLF President David Sadleir told Free Press Online via email prior to yesterday morning's council working session. "We have proposed it be replaced by a 'Services Agreement' that will maintain the current scheduled site programs and access support for our communities, students, all Canadians and visitors worldwide at no cost to the Town. The annual cost-avoidance 'value' of those services to the Town of New Tecumseth is quite significant.

Since completing all the essential ‘rescue', construction and infrastructure upgrades required of us, at virtually no cost to taxpayers, and launching our site-based programs in early 2014, over 5,500 visitors from eight rovinces, 12 US states and 23 countries have participated. We intend to grow that participation in all directions.

The only thing that will be different if the Town accepts our proposal, will be that the Town, and not SFBLF, will be responsible for maintaining the buildings and site infrastructure, all of which they own."

Ward 3 councillor Paul Whiteside said yesterday he didn't appreciate that the Foundation presenting an agreement because the Town owns the over 100 acre heritage Banting homestead property.

Nancy Rugman, a member of the SFBLF, on hand yesterday for the session, told council that the proposal was a starting point to kick start the new round of discussions.

Relations between council and the SFBLF has been strained in the past couple years mostly over the annual grant allocations. The foundation wanted to utilize the monies to subsidize operating costs, but councillors had been firm that grants were not to cover operating costs.

"They made a commitment, now they want to terminate the lease, but it's totally different, they're asking the Town to pick up all the operating costs, said Mr. Whiteside. "I think it's totally new, and I'm not prepared to give them an open cheque book. We are the owner, they are the tenants, and most tenants are responsible for their own utilities."

Ward 4 councillor Fran Sainsbury said council should consider turning over the $16,800 the Town collects annually from the farm operation that continues on the property, to the Foundation to subsidize its operating costs, rather than making it an annual  line in the budget that would come from taxation.

"It's not complicated," said Ms. Sainsbury. "I don't really want to see the Banting homestead not working with us. This is an important thing. I think because the costs of everything has gone up so much, that is there concern. I do not want to see this thing collapse, and I don't think we should get into semantics because that home needs to be occupied. What are they going to do with the things that belong to Sir Frederick Banting? They have to take them out of the home, we can't do this."

Councillors also left the door open for other potential users, including the Simcoe County District School Board, which has still not eliminated the homestead site as a potential home for a new Banting Memorial High School.

"There may be other organizations that are interested in doing other activities on that same property," said Mr. Whiteside. "Are we going to offer other organizations the same concessions?"

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All stories, unless otherwise noted,
by Tony Veltri
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