North Bay City Councillor Scott Robertson is hoping to clear up where he stands, where he believes his colleagues are at with the Cassellholme redevelopment, and how the proposed community and recreation centre fits into the big picture.
"Nobody is placing the community centre above Cassellholme," he says. "Cassellholme is number one."
Robertson says he's heard from many community members asking several variations of the question, "How can you build a community centre when there is this debacle going on over the Cassellholme redevelopment?"
In response to those in-person and online exchanges, Robertson recorded a Facebook Live session Friday to set the record straight.
"Unequivocally, Cassellholme is the number one priority — for everyone," he states.
"Rarely have I seen unanimous consent in the council setting. Nobody wants to put the community centre ahead of Cassellholme. The community centre project is on hold until we figure out what's going on with Cassellholme."
In January, during the 2021 budget discussions, the City presented the total cost of the project as $42.125 million. This includes the reconstruction of the Lakeshore Drive and Booth Road intersection that would enter the community and recreation centre. The estimated special debt to be borne by the City of North Bay and its taxpayers is $31.68 million.
Thursday, North Bay City Council members unanimously supported a motion to make a request for a 30-day reprieve from the Cassellholme board while the City of North Bay adjusts its modelling for the nearly $122-million redevelopment project and looks into a new potential financing option.
See also: City to Cassellholme: Give us 30 days
During that special council meeting, Deputy Mayor Tanya Vrebosch stressed "moving forward collectively in the same direction and having good communication," is in the best interests of Cassellholme and the partner municipalities and allows the City of North Bay to explore financing options without the imminent concern of being levied by the board for its share of project costs.
Coun. Dave Mendicino added, "All the municipalities support the redevelopment. They don't support the financial options the board of management has put in front of them. Our debt is $55 million right now. If the City of North Bay has to assume that guarantee [approximately $90 million], it takes our liability to $140–150 million. We don't [even] own the asset."
"I don't view this as slowing the process down," Robertson noted, "I view this as taking the necessary steps to make sure this moves forward properly."
Coun. Chris Mayne, who also serves as chair of the Cassellholme board, also supported the motion. "I have my concerns with the timeline but that will be more appropriately discussed at the Cassellholme board meeting. Anything that helps bring forward realistic proposals to help pay for the redevelopment is welcomed by everyone."
Mayne added, should the new avenue for financing not pan out, "I hope the City is prepared to make a commitment — just as quickly — to accept the conditions that have been presented through Infrastructure Ontario."
BayToday will have full coverage of the next Cassellholme board meeting, scheduled for Thursday at 5 p.m.