Council mulls Headwaters grant to offset development charges

June 9, 2016   ·   0 Comments

Headwaters Health Care Centre’s CEO, Liz Reugg, appeared at Orangeville Council last week with a plea for financial help toward the current expansion project.

Ms. Reugg explained that since the hospital opened in 1997, the town and Dufferin county have enjoyed strong population growth. Usage of the hospital has increased to the point where it has become necessary to invest in the expansion.

Increasing the building’s size by 8700 square feet will allow the medical staff to offer a more comprehensive care platform for chemotherapy and oncology while adding a fourth operating room and improving the reception areas for ambulatory and day surgery needs.

Ms. Reugg is a no nonsense speaker. She quickly explained the funding and space needs and why the Town of Orangeville should support the hospital. Explaining that the hospital is a not-for-profit entity, she said she was asking Orangeville for a one-time grant regarding development charges.

Specifically, Headwaters was asking the Town to waive the development charges related to the hospital expansion, explaining that in May the hospital paid $148,000 to the Town in development charges, and asking that the cheque not be cashed.

The CEO intimated to Council that funding is indeed tight and suggested that cashing the cheque could cause financial strain for the hospital. She summed up her presentation by noting that other municipalities such as Collingwood, Guelph, and Newmarket all work with their local hospitals regarding development fees., and Headwaters hoped that Orangeville would do the same.

On balance, the discussion and sentiment from Council was supportive. The issue was that the 2016 budget has been passed and the development charges revenue from the hospital had been included in the Town’s financials. Accordingly, if the Town didn’t charge the fees, the money would have to be found in other projects.

Treasurer Mark Villeneuve did his best to explain the situation to Council, but Councillor Nick Garisto seemed to have great difficulty understanding the issue.

He certainly wanted to support Headwaters but could not understand how the hospital’s cheque had already been already allocated.

Mayor Jeremy Williams did his best to explain the situation by sharing that the town “is not able to forgive the development charges, but instead could offer the money back as a grant.”

Mr. Garisto went on to share his opinion that Dufferin County council should also pay a portion of the development fees for the hospital. Deputy Mayor Warren Maycock advised him that County Council had already waived their development fees for the project.

Councillor Scott Wilson said that while he was generally “against paying for hospitals,” he was certainly not against the local hospital, the issue for him being a procedural problem.

“Hospitals are a provincial jurisdiction. That said, we should support the hospital and leave it to the staff to determine how and when we will pay for the $148,000.”

Mayor Williams again asked the Treasurer for suggestions on where the money could come from and suggested that perhaps the funding could come from general reserves.

Treasurer Villeneuve stated that “the money (for hospitals) has not been set aside. There are other intents for the reserves. However, we could bump up our 2017 taxes by $150,000 to help pay for this. (This would mean about $11.53 tax increase per household in 2017.)

In the end, the motion to approve  $150,000 in funding for the hospital was approved by Council.

The next step is to find out from staff what the best recommendations are as to how the town could allocate this expense.

Written by Todd Taylor

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