“I don’t think there’s a rush here,” said Councillor Don Bouchard. “We need more information so we can make a better decision.”
The Ward 4 councillor’s comment echoed the thoughts of other members of council during their May 17 session as they reviewed a preliminary administration report on the YMCA’s operating costs for its Clarence-Rockland facility during the pandemic.
“We need an in-depth analysis of all those expenses,” said Councillor Mario Zanth.
The city received a letter from the YMCA’s National Capital region office (NCR Y) in Ottawa explaining how the pandemic has affected the non-profit recreation agency’s operations. The Clarence-Rockland YMCA was closed to the public as part of the provincial public health emergency order but the agency continued to maintain the facility in anticipation of reopening in the future.
In a letter to the city the YMCA claimed more than $400,000 in maintenance and repair costs so far during the pandemic and that it received about $65,000 in reimbursement funds so far from the city. The YMCA claims the city still owes the YMCA more than $340,000 in reimbursement funds for the 2020-2021 fiscal year under the MOU terms.
The administration report to council noted that city staff have met three times with YMCA officials during the between between August 2020 and February 2021 to discuss partial re-opening options during a pandemic and also an interim MOU to deal with financial issues related to maintaining the Clarence-Rockland facility while the provincial emergency order was in effect.
“On all three occasions when city staff met with the NCR Y executive,” stated the report, “there was no discussion of the city needing to offset a funding shortfall.”
The report noted that the interim MOU proposed for YMCA operations during the pandemic stated that “the Y would continue to provide administrative services and that all expenses would be reviewed by the city treasurer”. The interim MOU was never signed because “the chance of re-opening was bleak” so the city never received any YMCA operation expense reports for review.
“At this point there was no indication that expenses were out of control,” the administration report stated.
The report included a recommendation for a “good faith” payment of $64,000 under the terms of the original Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the city and the YMCA for operation of the sports and recreation facility. Several council members expressed reluctance to approve any funds yet until the city has more information.
All of council agreed that the Clarence-Rockland YMCA is “a real asset” to the city’s public recreation services. But council also voted 6-2 against paying any reimbursement funds until administration has gotten more detailed information from the NCR Y about the past year’s operation costs during the pandemic and also what financial aid.
The Clarence-Rockland YMCA was built as an addition to L’Escale through a partnership agreement between the city, the NCR Y and le conseil scolaire de district catholique de l’Est ontarien (CSDCEO). Council wants to know what financial aid the CDSCEO is providing for the past year’s maintenance operation of the facility and also if the NCR Y is getting any senior government pandemic aid.