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Town blinks in new deal with Banting foundation, grant now budget line item

Posted July 3, 2017

New Tecumseth council and the Sir Frederick Banting Legacy Foundation (SFBLF) have reached a new arrangement that recognizes each other's roles and responsibilities over the 100 acre homestead property. As well, inserts the operation into the municipal budget beginning with $20,000, increasing annually by two per cent. In exchange, the SFBLF cannot return to ask for a separate grant.

The new agreement represents a victory for a Foundation which for the past couple years had been at loggerheads with council because of strings attached to any grants. Council insisted they be used only for capital projects, while the SFBLF wanted to employ the funding to pay for operational costs such as utilities.

It came to a boil last winter when the SFBLF served notice it would not renew its expiring lease agreement offering to replace it with a 'Services Agreement' that maintained the scheduled site programs and access support for its visitor programs.

In a Dec. 28, 2016 letter to the Town, SFBLF President David Sadleir explained they had raised the funds to complete the "rescue, restoration and adaptation of essential historic buildings at the BHHP."

"Hundreds of donors have generously supported that important Canadian quest and the creation of our (Diabetes Management and Education Centre) DMEC," wrote Mr. Sadleir. "With those major objectives completed, it is no longer feasible for SFBLF to raise funds in support of buildings and infrastructure owned by a municipality. Increasingly, our donors are specifying that we are not to use their gifts for such a purpose. We are unable to continue our support of the costs of Town owned buildings and property at the expense of delivering our programs."

Councillors initially balked at the notion of paying for items like heat and hydro, while also providing funds for building maintenance. In April, with approximately three weeks left in the agreement, Ward 3 councillor Paul Whiteside said at the time, "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. 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."

Complicating the negotiations was the Simcoe County District School Board receiving council support to include the property as a site for a relocated Banting Memorial High School. As well, if the Foundation walked away from the operation, New Tecumseth can't sell the property without enduring a financial penalty on the profit because of the original purchase agreement with the Ontario Historical Society. If the Banting lands are sold for profit within 25 years from the date of closing (which is 2033), the Ontario Historical Society Foundation shall receive 85 per cent of the proceeds in excess of the purchase price net of all transaction costs including applicable taxes."

Ward 4 councillor Fran Sainsbury said the new deal recognizes the property produces a farm income of $16,800 which would subsidize the new budget line.

"We are the owner of that building, that is an asset that belongs to the Town. They are volunteers who provide a great service, said councillor Sainsbury. "We will now have a clearer picture of what they will do. ... All we're really doing is moving this to a line item. This is not a private corporation. The foundation is run separately, but the property is a Town asset. It cleans up who does what. Their role really is to teach diabetes, to do the tours, and to keep alive the legacy of Sir Frederick Banting. And this would stop having them to come to the microphone. Otherwise if this building is empty, we're still going to have to maintain that building. We can not sell that building for years."

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All stories, unless otherwise noted,
by Tony Veltri