Mono supports CVC in spirit but zips the purse to pond rehab project

September 15, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By JAMES MATTHEWS, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Credit Valley Conservation Authority asked Mono to jump aboard a joint federal funding request for work at the Monora Park pond.

But Mono town council decided during its Sept. 13 meeting to support the effort in spirit, without a monetary commitment.

The CVC asked the municipality to jointly apply for a federal Natural Infrastructure Fund grant that would cover 80 per cent of the cost to restore Monora Park. After much back and forth, it was decided the municipality would write a letter of support for the initiative, but not commit to funding or get on board with a co-application process.

The deadline to apply for the NIF grant is Sept. 27.

According to their pitch to council, the CVC’s objectives through the work is to remove risk to public safety and restore a deteriorating dam, remove environmental impacts to fish migration and water temperature, restore stream and wetland habitat in the park’s pond basin, and finally to maintain trail connectivity for recreational uses.

Mayor John Creelman suggested the CVC could likely apply for grant money without the town.

But Paul Biscaia of the CVC said partnerships give the application a greater chance at success.

“Typically, partnerships make all grants more successful because you’re demonstrating more support from the community,” he said.

It was also suggested the town jump on board with the project and inject some coin from reserve funds that fit the bill.

Les Halucha, the town’s treasurer, said there is $120,000 in a Vicki Barron Trail reserve fund. And he said there’s $46,000 in a Mono Trail reserve fund.

Those funds are for discretionary use, he said.

“Basically, it’s council’s determination if they want to use the reserves,” Halucha said.

Funding has been secured by the CVC for stream and wetland restoration and to design a main means of crossing the waterway. But money is still outstanding for the construction of the main crossing and boardwalk or lookout, signage, and a western bridge replacement.

The CVC proposed they and the municipality each kick in $109,200 toward the unfunded project costs. That would be a combined $218,400 commitment with an infrastructure grant of $873,600. The NIF portion would be 80 per cent of the cost with Mono’s and CVC’s being the remaining 20 per cent.

Pending grant approval and agreement to cost-share the remainder, the CVC would be the primary contract administrators, said Laura Rundle of the conservation authority.

“We’re dealing with very tight timelines,” she said. “Time is really of the essence.”

Details of the Monora Park project were first broached to town council in May. Coun. Ralph Manktelow said there was no mention then of a financial commitment of Mono taxpayers’ money.

“So it bothers me that you come at this time asking for financial support after you have gone ahead with the project,” he said.

Coun. Sharon Martin said she’s expressed previously her concerns to CVC about how the project, through removal of a dam, would destroy the pond.

“It has been there 65 years,” she said of the pond. “And if there are any fish there in the stream above in the north end, they probably have been taking care of themselves for a very long time.”

Removing the pond would drive away birds and mammals that depend on the body of water.

“No trucks go over this dam,” Coun. Martin said. “There are no sinkholes in this dam. I guess it seems to me an overreaction to a pond being there.”

She said she won’t put a $109,200 burden on a future council to be elected in October.

Deputy Mayor Fred Nix, who is on the town’s Headwaters Streams Committee, agreed. He said the $109,000 wasn’t earmarked in this year’s budget. That means it would be the next council’s budget responsibility.

However, having said all that, Nix said he supported the CVC’s request for funding.

“We see this grant as really an amazing opportunity for 80 per cent of some of these features that were outside the scope of the project,” said Rundle.

Such features are things like signage and boardwalks and lookouts.

“We don’t have all the funds for the nice-to-have features,” Rundle said.

Mayor John Creelman said he felt as if council has been “sandbagged.”

There was nothing in the May presentation that suggested the CVC would return and ask for funding. The mayor said municipal reserve funds are not piggy banks.

“I have to imagine that you’ve known about the grant opportunity for some time,” Creelman said. “Now we’re being put on the spot to approve your vision.”

The mayor suggested CVC could likely proceed with the grant application without the town’s monetary support.

Kim Heaton, the town’s recreation director, said the pond is an aesthetic feature for residents to collect thoughts and appreciate nature.

“I’ve certainly come to understand the importance and the need for the project,” said Heaton.

She said grants rarely give ample time to applicants.

“Grant writing is not an easy thing to do,” Heaton said.

She added that she was initially opposed to the CVC’s plans. But she’s since re-evaluated her stance.

“Monora Park is the most used park for our residents,” Heaton said.

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