September 13, 2020 - CCI Group Condition Assessment of Haldimand Memorial Arena

In September 2016, CCI Group issued a report titled "Building Conditon Assessment" for the Haldimand Memorial Arena in Alnwick Haldimand. The engineering company did a review of Structure, Building Envelop, Roofing, Interior Finishes, Millwork, Barrier Free Aspects, Fire protection and Life Safety Systems, Vertical Transportation, Mechanical, Water Service, Control Systems, Electrical, and Siteworks. The report summarizes expenditures that are currently required as well as those anticipated over the next 15-year period. Read the report here 2016 CCI Arena Report

August 11, 2020 - Citizen Petitions Regarding Haldimand Memorial Arena

There have been two significant issues related to the Haldimand Memorial Arena that have resulted in citizen petitions. One was a decision on the continued operation of the arena as a hockey or skating venue. The other was a private restaurant take out business that was operating out of the arena canteen.  Gritt Koehl did a comprehensive review of the situation and posted the review on the ABC-Activism Faceebook page.  This information is taken from that post.

Introduction

Lines have been blurred between community service (volunteer work intended to help people in a certain area) and a for profit private business. 

Petitions are a valuable tool for citizens to lobby their local Councils, and we are encouraged to see people getting involved in local issues. A petition about citizens saving their beloved arena with so much history is one thing. However, a petition that stems from a lack of understanding of the issues facing Council around a private business is another.

THE ARENA STORY

Back in mid-March 2020, ironically right when the pandemic struck, word got out that Council was considering a Motion (pre-pandemic) not to put ice in the Haldimand Memorial Arena for 2020/2021. The entire facility is near end of life and requires major rehabilitation. Consultants were retained to do a complete Parks & Rec study for the Township. An Ad Hoc Committee was established to review & generate ideas from the study, but the Committee’s report has been shelved. Likely millions will need to be spent in order to operate the arena. So far, Council has proposed to shut the arena down for 2020/2021.

Citizen outrage ensued on the Grafton Ontario Residents Facebook page, resulting in a petition to save the arena. In view of the public pressure, Council decided to defer any decision regarding ice until the pandemic allowed Council to hold a public meeting to allow for citizen input.

Nobody knows yet what is going to happen with the arena. Will the hockey season get started, will enough participants come back, will it even make sense to put the ice in at a great cost? No doubt COVID-19 will dictate the decision Council will have to make now, and for the future. In the short term though, public outcry has delayed the decision.

THE OUTDOOR CANTEEN

Here we are in mid-August (still under pandemic measures), and word got out that Council voted against extending a contract with a private business at the outdoor Canteen. 

Public outcry over this decision resulted in a another Change.org petition on the Grafton Ontario Residents Facebook page. When last checked the petition has over 400 signatures.

There are several points that need to be considered in this matter:

  1. Should municipal canteen facilities/equipment be leased for long terms to private business, when it is not known when organized sports will return?
  2. Would ALL the taxpayers in A/H (pop 7,000) agree to subsidize a “for profit” private business on municipal property without a proper business case being presented to Council?
  3. Is a conflict of interest happening, and should Council consider the implications?

CANTEEN CONTRACT DETAILS

PRE-PANDEMIC

    • The original contract from May 1, 2020 to September 30, 2020, was a typical contract for outdoor canteens to cover summer sports seasons
    • The private company was to provide Food Service Operations for patrons of the Haldimand Community Memorial Arena & Park
    • The private company was to pay monthly rent of $675.00 x 5 mos = $3,375.00
    • The minimum hours were to be Monday to Thursday 6:00 – 9:00 pm, Friday/Saturday as needed for Events/Tournaments
    • The private company was allowed to use the existing equipment owned by the Township: one 22 cu. ft. freezer, two 9.6 cu. ft. freezers, one cash register, one popcorn machine, one radiant broiler, two deep fryers c/w s/s tank, one equipment stand (Contractor responsible for maintenance of equipment – Township sole discretion to repair/replace inoperable equipment)
    • Township to approve/inspect any equipment addition by contractor
    • Contractor can access canteen at any time and will be assigned one key/one alarm code
    • Contractor will not have access to any other staff areas of arena & park facility
    • Contractor and employees must follow regulations under Occupational Health & Safety Act and accept all liability
    • Certificate of Inspection and copy of Food Safety Inspection Report must be provided to the Township
    • Contractor is responsible for obtaining insurance (specific details in contract) and provide Township with proof of insurance
    • No person under the age of 16 can work or volunteer in the canteen
    • Workplace Safety and Insurance Board Certificate shall be submitted to the Township
    • Termination of contract, with or without cause by either party, at any time upon 10 days written notice

So, the contract was for a private company to provide canteen services to the public during league & tournament times. The private company was planning on selling its’ soups through the canteen, as a great way of marketing their product to the public, a clever strategy.

The private company was producing, processing, packaging and labeling its’ soup products at the OAFVC (Ontario Agri-Food Venture Centre) located in the Cramahe Industrial Park.

The OAFVC is a food processing facility owned & operated by Northumberland County – paid for by taxpayers. While the OAFVC is a noble economic-development venture, the reality is that it costs taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, especially since the County purchased the building outright a couple of years ago.

The purpose of the OAFVC is to give entrepreneurs an opportunity to book time slots (hours or days) at the facilities, based on a rental fee set by the County. Entrepreneurs are able to use state of the art equipment, to get expert advice on all aspects of food production, and to get their food products to market - at a fraction of the cost of starting a private business.

An example of a success story is Saucy Dotty’s, who began her venture at the OAFVC. As a result, her product is available in many grocery stores, markets and restaurants. On Saturday, August 8, 2020 she officially opened her first store at 8 Loyalist Drive, Unit 1, Brighton.

COVID-19 PANDEMIC

MARCH 13, 2020 is a day none of us will forget. In response to a highly contagious virus, everyone in the Province was asked to stay at home and not to travel except in an emergency. All government buildings were closed, businesses had to shut down and all recreational activities ceased. That meant the canteen wouldn’t be open and the OAFVC closed as well.

APRIL 4, 2020 - closures continued to be extended, and as per Ontario Regulation 82/20, any place of business that was not listed in Schedule 2 had to close. Under Schedule 2 - Food that meant only the following businesses were permitted to remain open:

    • Supermarkets and grocery stores
    • Convenience stores
    • Discount and big box retailers selling groceries
    • Restaurants (take-out, drive-through and delivery service only)
    • Beer, wine and liquor stores

APRIL 7, 2020 the private soup business wrote to Council expressing a continued interest in renting the outdoor canteen for the same period May 1 to Sep 30, 2020. The closing of the OAFVC left the business “at an incredible disadvantage in terms of kitchen space”. The business had continued to supply “meals to over 100 people, most of them living alone and afraid to venture out”, during the first 3 weeks of shutdown, and wanted to move forward with this. “I sincerely hope you allow us to continue to take care of the community in this manner.”

APRIL 16, 2020 VIRTUAL COUNCIL MEETING

This proposal and the contract were discussed at a virtual Council Meeting. The following pandemic clause regarding hours of operation was added to the contract, the rest remained unchanged:

Special Note: Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, all baseball and events have stopped until further notice. The above listed minimum hours of operation would not be in effect until the Parks and Recreation Manager provides written notice to the Contractor stating the date regular operations will continue.

Here are the notes taken by Gritt Koehl of that meeting.

Mayor Latchford: original contract was to be during the baseball season. We have had some updated information, how would council like to proceed.

Councillor Filip: COVID-19 plays a role, we need flexibility as to start and finish of that contract.

Latchford: it appears that she is wanting to do some production and cooking of the soup products at the canteen. I’m not sure we’re set up for that, and if we could even do that with the appliances. The OAFVC is closed due to COVID-19, which is where the soups were being prepared.

Filip: I think there would be something to do with commercial license & health inspection. I’m not sure we’re set up for a commercial operation like that. We would need a report by staff.

Deputy Mayor Gibson: I think it is very important for residents that don’t have services close by. If the 'company' can safely operate from that location it would be a service to seniors.

Latchford: I’m worried about it not being a commercial kitchen, and there is availability of other restaurants.

Arena Manager Chris Curwin: I agree with Sherry’s comment and it will improve the local community by this operation. Whether this is labelled a commercial space or not, contract/insurance/WSIB/health unit inspection all has to be done. It generates revenue for us.

Councillor Booth: I agree with those comments. It would be up to the person renting the space, if they’re willing to pay that rent, then it must fit their need.

Latchford: how will that be set up to control people with COVID-19?

Curwin: I am not sure how that will work. Talking about people coming on grounds to pick up.

Latchford: I think we need to hear from the Health Unit to ensure that this would be approved and if they would allow her to do that there. How does this operation affect the rent now, because it was originally for during baseball season? You are now looking at a full time kitchen and operation, and that will be more hours of operation.

Curwin: says minimum hours are in the contract.

Gibson: in light of the current COVID-19, and reduced services for people, we are allowing increased hours and that isn’t something that should be permitted in future years.

Pass the contract the way it’s written, but we are giving some additional leeway this season because of C19.

Latchford: and the fact that the OAFVC is closed until further notice.

Filip: I’m muddled on how that agreement sounds now…

Gibson: The canteen agreement will be signed as written, but we are agreeing for the additional service out of the canteen for the duration of the contract only.

Council authorized the contract as follows:

"Be it resolved that By-Law No. 38-2020, being a By-Law to Authorize the Signing and Execution of an Agreement between the Corporation of the Township of Alnwick/Haldimand and (Redacted) - Outdoor Canteen Services at Haldimand Community Memorial Arena and Park Commencing May 1st, 2020 to September 30th, 2020, be read and deemed to be PASSED this 16th day of April, 2020; and further that due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the temporary closure of the Ontario Agri-Food Venture Centre (OAFVC) in Colborne, the Council of the Township of Alnwick/Haldimand will allow increased hours of operation and use of the outdoor canteen by (Redacted) to provide service to the Township of Alnwick/Haldimand residents, pending the inspection and approval by the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit."

JULY 29, 2020 the private business again wrote to Council requesting that the contract be extended for a two year period. The letter can be found on the August 6, 2020 Council Agenda. The body of the letter is copied below and highlights the change from a soup kitchen during the pandemic to a private business take-out restaurant.

Begin Copy:
l am writing this letter to be presented to Alnwick—Haldimand Town Council members regarding the contract for the Outdoor Canteen located at 10766 County Rd 2, Grafton.

(Redacted) has had overwhelming success while operating the canteen during COVlD—19 as a soup production area and even more success after seeing a need in our community for more take-out food options. The feedback from the community has been absolutely incredible and we are now serving up to 100 people per week!

Having said that we would like to keep this service going forward past the current contract end date, and continue to serve the loyal members who patronize us each day.

I am willing to have any winterizing of the canteen side of the building required (ie heater, etc) be the responsibility of my company.

I am offering a per month rental fee of $1200 beginning October 1st/2020 as well as taking full responsibility for all septic pumping charges. I am requesting a contract of two years from that date.

Our company has been able to supply $200 worth of meals for free during the pandemic, thanks to a donation from Northumberland County during May, and continued by our business out of pocket for June and July. We have also created 4 full time jobs for students in our community.

I welcome any questions regarding this proposal and am willing to work with council to continue to provide this service to the residents of Alnwick-Haldimand.
End Copy.

AUGUST 6, 2020 VIRTUAL COUNCIL MEETING

Council had reservations about the proposal and they denied the extension. Here is the discussion from the August 6th meeting.

Arena Manager Curwin: She is almost doubling her rent, that’s a good thing.

Deputy Mayor Gibson: there is no mention of operating the canteen in the arena. Is that possible? My difficulty with the two year term is that is a long time to know with respect to the township and what uses that could be used for.

Councillor Filip: I would have thought this person would have looked to going back to the OAFVC. Is there anything stopping that?

Councillor Booth: I was under the understanding that we were helping out while the OAFVC was closed, but if they are opening, then they should be going back there?

Mayor Latchford: I don’t believe that we can commit in the long term to continue this.

Curwin: the OAFVC has opened, but this is to serve the people in the community.

Latchford: – we didn’t look at this as opening for a restaurant.

Gibson: if Terry Carruthers is on the line and we are having to discuss this, then she should be allowed to speak.

Motion to allow Terry Carruthers to speak. CARRIED

Gibson: just felt that this didn’t come with a lot of information about what your intent was. I was in favour of you moving the soup business into the canteen during the pandemic. I thought it was a win-win to offer a service to the community. I feel it has moved more into a business venture for you.

Terry Carruthers: after the OAFVC closed we were able to continue in the Canteen in Grafton. Overwhelming success with that. Demand in the community increased. We were also able to offer student employment in the summer. We are more than happy to meet that community need. It just seems to us to go forward with a request to extend the rental, so I can keep this in the community.

Gibson: is it your intent to continue to run canteen service indoors in the arena?

Carruthers: we can offer limited indoors, like hot chocolate etc.

Gibson: we are setting a precedent of allowing businesses to open up on municipal properties, and we have to think about that.

Carruthers: we have the option of shutting down, and we can do that as of September 30th, then that is something we would do.

Gibson: I think it was a great service that you provided to the community, but I am not comfortable moving forward with a two year contract on this.

Booth: We gave them a helping hand, and now they can go back to the OAFVC, but if I hear they can help with the indoor canteen, so if that could work, then maybe that’s viable.

Latchford: the only thing with inside this year, we don’t know if there will be an inside at the arena. This year wouldn’t even be a good year to get into a contract, because I think it’s unfair.

Filip: I would be uncomfortable with any individual who was going to upgrade/work in a municipal building. Minor hockey has a no start until December 1st, so I am not sure what is going to happen. I would caution against a 2 year contract at this point.

Carruthers: the only possible refurbish is all we would do is to have a heater, with the fryers going, we probably wouldn’t need a heater. So no restructuring of an actual building.

Filip: Motion to defer until Council can have a conversation about this.

Gibson: I don’t think that’s fair to the business, so in fairness to the business, we need to decide so she can move forward with her business.

Latchford: I agree with Councillor Gibson.

Gibson: I am going to make a motion with great agony, but in terms of protecting the township, that the contract not be extended for (Redacted) beyond September 30th.

Carruthers: does that mean that I could apply to come back in May of 2021.

Council: Yes - anyone could.

Motion that the outdoor canteen contract end September 30 as per the original agreement. CARRIED

QUESTIONS / CONSIDERATIONS RAISED BY CANTEEN PROPOSAL

1. Should municipal canteen facilities/equipment be leased for long terms to private business, when it is not known when organized sports will return?

    • As Council members discussed, to extend a contract on the canteen for two years is too long with respect to the township and what uses it could be used for. It isn’t the right time to do this during the pandemic.
    • It is common practice that a canteen contract at municipal facilities be tendered and signed on a year by year basis, in order to give sports associations and private businesses the opportunity to quote on running the canteen during the organized sports season.
    • Council members were not comfortable with the canteen opening as a restaurant. The understanding was that this was to help until the OAFVC opened again.
    • If such a major change in policy to the fundamental operation of a canteen were to be undertaken by Council, there would have to be public consultation through a public meeting.

2. Would ALL the taxpayers in A/H (pop 7,000) agree to subsidize a “for profit” private business on municipal property without a proper business case being presented to Council?

The private business is successful and that is a good thing. However, the message that this is a community service is not true. A community service is defined as voluntary work intended to help people in a particular area. Loyal members in reality are customers who choose to purchase food from the business. This is a line that cannot be blurred.

If the Township were to pursue the contracting of for profit private businesses to operate on municipal property, independent of schedule sports activities, then that would require a change of policy and public consultation would be required.

The taxpayers want to know what the benefit will be to them and the township as a whole, as it should not be on the basis of just covering costs. A municipality should receive compensation from a for profit business, just the same as if the business were renting in a privately owned building. A business plan should include costs for the following items to determine appropriate rent charged:

      • Utilities (high energy use equipment)
      • Depreciation (facility/equipment)
      • Grounds/building maintenance
      • Portable toilets
      • Staff time

3. Is a conflict of interest happening, and should Council consider the implications?

Council has considered the implications and wisely has made a decision not to extend the contract, which is the best under the current circumstances.

December 2019 - Parks Master Plan Review Committee Report 

This is a report by the Ad Hoc Committee that reviewed the Alnwick/Haldimand Parks Master Plan

Report of Ad Hoc Committee on Parks Master Plan