Barrie councillors want more from college
Not so fast cutting that $1.5-million cheque.
Barrie councillors have delayed the city's last instalment of its $5-million commitment to Georgian College's health and wellness centre until they get more information about plans for a downtown campus.
“I just don't feel comfortable passing this tonight (Monday). I don't think we have enough information,” said Coun. Barry Ward. “We basically just got a press release from them (Georgian College). I think there's a lot of questions that council wants answered.”
Last week the college announced it had issued a request for proposal (RFP) seeking to lease up to 20,000 square feet, including modern training rooms and retail space in a high visibility downtown location, to move 250 Georgian design and visual arts students there.
Coun. Doug Shipley said he'd like more than an RFP, however, from Georgian College.
“I'd like to see their long-term plans, maybe a signed lease agreement, that shows the commitment's there,” he said. “This has been going on since 2009, I believe, so an RFP wasn't going to be my comfort level for approving $1.5 million.
“I need something a little more substantial myself.”
Councillors have deferred a decision on the $1.5 million until Oct. 31, to allow the college to make an Oct. 24 presentation on its plans.
“I don't think it's a bad thing to have the presentation, because it will give Georgian an opportunity to come not just before council, but before the community, and give an update on the status of their plan,” Mayor Jeff Lehman said.
“I do have a greater degree of comfort that the long-term plan that the board has approved at Georgian College will be fulfilled, but I can certainly understand the desire for more information.”
Terms of the city's $5-million commitment to the $65.5-million health and wellness centre, from 2009, include establishing 'firm commitments and a time line for Georgian to establish a satellite campus in accordance with the city's Downtown Commercial Master Plan'.
In 2013, city council delayed paying the second-last portion of its health and wellness centre contribution, $1 million, until there was further information about the college's commitment and time lines related to establishing a satellite campus in downtown Barrie.
In mid-2014, college officials made a presentation to council about a provincial funding submission that would include moving Georgian's design and visual arts school downtown.
Council agreed to the 2013 payment, but made it clear the scheduled 2014 portion of $1.5 million wouldn't be considered until there was a firm and demonstrable commitment by Georgian College to establish academic programs downtown.
Last May, the college made a presentation and asked council's support for a new project – establishing a centre for advanced technology, innovation and research on Georgian's Barrie campus, and moving a portion of the visual arts and design program downtown.
Council supported it, and committed to $5 million during a four-year period, subject to the college getting federal funding – along with a firm commitment and time line from the college to establish student academic programs in the city centre.
Last week's Georgian time lines call for the chosen space to be renovated as required and operational by Aug. 1, 2017. Starting September 2017, approximately 250 students will begin their studies in the new space.
The college is looking for a building which includes a storefront location where student work can be featured and sold to the many people who live, work and visit in downtown Barrie.
Programs will include all years of digital photography and imaging, digital video, graphic design and graphic design production.
Georgian College president and CEO MaryLynn West-Moynes said this move fulfills a deal reached several years ago between the college and the city.
But not quite yet, Barrie councillors decided Monday.