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Cassellholme enthusiastic about lifting of loan guarantee; City of North Bay awaits council direction

The next step will be the initial levy of $34.5 million, to be shared among the nine partner municipalities, Cassellholme says. 'With today’s announcement and Ministry approval, we are ready to start building'
2021 06 03 Cassellholme (Campaigne) 4(1)
The City of North Bay will review the new financing guarantee for the Cassellholme redevelopment and seek council direction on how to proceed.

Cassellholme CEO Jamie Lowery envisions a smoother homestretch on the prolonged roller coaster ride known as the Cassellholme redevelopment.

Earlier Friday, Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli announced the Government of Ontario is removing the guarantee required of the municipalities for financing the overall $120-million plus Cassellholme redevelopment project.

See related: Fedeli makes game-changing Casselholme announcement

“Removing the guarantee means the municipalities' last objection is off the table and we can get the project moving full steam ahead," Lowery states.

See also: Fedeli: Cassellholme funding 'is not going anywhere'

And: Lack of support from North Bay Council pushes Cassellholme redevelopment to the brink

The guarantee has been the major sticking point for the nine partner municipalities — North Bay, East Ferris, Bonfield, South Algonquin, Chisholm, Mattawa, Mattawan, Calvin and Papineau–Cameron — since project financing options were presented by Cassellholme. The Cassellholme Board of Directors remains supportive of the preferred financing option with Infrastructure Ontario, which offers a low fixed rate of interest over a 25-year term.

“Cassellholme staff was responsible for providing financing options for the project, all of which had some form of guarantee attached,” says Lowery. “With today’s announcement, we can proceed to the levy and set a date for getting shovels in the ground.”

Cassellholme Board Chair and Coun. Chris Mayne says, “This was the final sticking point.  We at Cassellholme have supported our municipal partners in their efforts to get the best possible deal for the taxpayer and have worked diligently behind the scenes to find a path forward where the guarantee was concerned.”

The member municipalities have expressed various reservations centred on the financing of the project but have all publicly declared their support for the overall Cassellholme project.

“From the beginning,” Mayne says, “our municipal partners have been there with words of encouragement and we appreciate this has been a long and sometimes difficult process.”

Meanwhile, the partner with the largest stake in the Cassellholme redevelopment will take some time to allow City of North Bay staff to review the details of today’s announcement. The new information including the lifting of the guarantee will need to be brought forward to North Bay City Council for direction.

Neither Mayor Al McDonald nor CAO David Euler was in the office Friday. Both have been critical of the handling of the Cassellholme situation. McDonald replaced Deputy Mayor Tanya Vrebosch on the board of directors as a council representative from the City of North Bay, resigned, and has since been replaced by Coun. Bill Vrebosch.

Euler authored a letter to the Ministry of Long-Term Care in August expressing the City's serious concerns with the redevelopment project.

See: Dispute between City and Cassellholme Board over reconstruction costs reaching boiling point

And, besides the merry-go-round on the board, the members have been at odds for months.

See: Bill Vrebosch calls on Chris Mayne and Mark King to resign from Cassellholme Board after 'attack on council'

See also: King wants Vrebosch kicked off Cassellholme Board

And: I won't resign says Mark King, accusing Bill Vrebosch of trying to 'derail' Cassellholme project

Mayne and Lowery both expressed gratitude to Fedeli for working tirelessly with them, and on Cassellholme’s behalf, to keep the project front and centre at Queen’s Park.

“Vic has been our biggest supporter,” Lowery expresses. “From the very beginning, Vic and his government have been at the table with financial support, ongoing encouragement and project assistance. Victor told me years ago, redeveloping Cassellholme was one of his key priorities. He has come through for the community. He has been cheerleader, advocate, and partner to Cassellholme throughout this process.”

The next step will be the initial levy of $34.5 million, to be shared among the nine partner municipalities.

“This is the largest municipal installment for the project and accounts for roughly 21 per cent of project costs," according to Lowery, who points out levy amounts for construction of the new Cassellholme steadily decrease over the life of the project.

Mayne added, “We’ve now completed all the requirements as set out by the Ministry, done everything the municipalities have asked us to do and provided clear communication with the public. With today’s announcement and Ministry approval, we are ready to start building.”