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

'My concern as Chair is those care-based needs are about to be replaced by financial concerns raised by the municipalities'
2021 06 03 Cassellholme (Campaigne) 2
The immediate future of the redevelopment project at Cassellholme is in doubt as the partner municipalities resist the lender's financing guarantee requirement.

Coun. Chris Mayne, who also serves as Chair of the Cassellholme Board of Management, admitted to feeling disappointment and frustration following what is surely the coup de grace to this version of the long-term care home's plans for redevelopment.

North Bay City Council voted 7-4, Thursday, to hold firm on its consensus reached in January regarding the proposed Cassellholme project.

Mayne later observed, "That North Bay Council wasn't prepared to move past the guarantee requirement that has been re-stated endlessly by Infrastructure Ontario as a mandatory requirement for the financing is difficult to accept as the Chair of Cassellholme, knowing this was the only available funding for the project." 

Councillors Mark King, George Maroosis and Scott Robertson joined Mayne in support of rescinding the January motion with the possibility of moving the redevelopment forward.

See related: North Bay, East Ferris lead meeting as Cassellholme partners talk redevelopment financing

See also: Cassellholme board grants time extension — 'hard deadline' remains

The major sticking point continues to be the stipulation from lender Infrastructure Ontario the nine partner municipalities in Cassellholme must guarantee the province's share of up to $65 million — as part of the nearly $122-million endeavour. Reluctant municipalities fear the extra debt load will affect the credit ratings and borrowing power.

City of North Bay CAO David Euler and CFO Margaret Karpenko joined the meeting to outline the ancillary financial ramifications of the guarantee. Euler also announced the City's third-party counsel had warned against entering into the current form of the guarantee.

Following two hours of spirited discussion during the special committee meeting, the ensuing special council meeting had a surprise ending as Deputy Mayor Tanya Vrebosch resigned from the Cassellholme board, with Mayor Al McDonald named her successor. 

Following the meeting,  Mayne told BayToday a board meeting to discuss the option to levy the municipalities planned for Friday morning had already been cancelled. He acknowledged it is clear the deal is teetering on the edge of the abyss.

"We'll be giving consideration to whether or not there are any next steps for what was proposed as a redevelopment," he said. "It would certainly be much more challenging without the support of the City of North Bay — which has an 80 per cent stake — as demonstrated at Thursday's meeting."

Vrebosch told her colleagues the decision to step away was based on the "governance" of the board and was not related to the redevelopment. There were clearly philosophical differences on the board's direction between the two yet Mayne thanked Vrebosch for her years of service and joined Vice-Chair King in welcoming McDonald to the fray. 

See also: Heated Cassellholme discussion spills over into council meeting

"There is a real divide — not just in the region — as you can tell there is a lot of concern with the area communities," observed McDonald. "I do appreciate their passion. We have an excellent council. We are divided on the redevelopment. My ultimate goal and the reason I want to be on the board is to see Cassellholme redeveloped. It is my hope we can bring the area municipalities back to the table to find some solutions, including the City of North Bay."

McDonald echoed the predominant sentiment of the evening — Cassellholme has the support of municipal politicians — something Mayne later said he had hoped would be accompanied by a willingness to move forward.

"What remains to be seen now," added Mayne post-meeting, "is what they will be seeking as a replacement [to this proposal] and what impact it will have on the future of long-term care and Cassellholme in our community."

Earlier this week, East Ferris politicians rejected the deal as presented and many of the partner municipalities, including the four planning to exit the Cassellholme agreement and form its own board centred around the Mattawa-based Algonquin Nursing Home — Calvin, Mattawa, Mattawan, and Papineau-Cameron — have expressed grave concerns about financing the guarantee. Bonfield, Chisholm, and South Algonquin round out the nine partners.

See: Cassellholme partner municipalities examining debt guarantee for $122M redevelopment

Mayne was recently re-appointed as chair and shared he is willing to continue with the support of the board.

"I am anxious to see what the municipalities see as the path forward for the redevelopment of Cassellholme. Traditionally the requirements for long-term care in our community have been decisions as a care-based board. My concern as Chair is those care-based needs are about to be replaced by financial concerns raised by the municipalities."


Stu Campaigne

About the Author: Stu Campaigne

Stu Campaigne is a full-time news reporter for BayToday.ca, focusing on local politics and sharing our community's compelling human interest stories.
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