By Stew Slater, Staff reporter
The Town of St. Marys will pursue federal government grants for upgrades at the sewage treatment plant, and for the creation of a childcare “hub” at the Pyramid Recreation Centre. But, given that the applications will be sent to the same grant program, priority will be given to the childcare concept.
Town Councillors set the priority after supporting the applications during a Special Meeting Tuesday, Aug. 7.
“The math doesn’t work out very well for both of these proposals to receive a grant,” commented Don Van Galen, after councillors had given consent to administrative staff to pursue Community Infrastructure Improvement Fund grants for both proposals.
In both cases, an application would seek “up to 50 per cent” coverage by the Infrastructure Improvement Fund grant.
“Because of the manufactured food processing that goes on in St. Marys, it has changed the nature of what goes into the sewer system,” commented CEO Kevin McLlwain, when asked about the need for the sewage treatment plant upgrade. He added there is some funding in the current year’s budget for a small level of improvement, but the need for a wider-scale upgrade “is in the very near future.”
The so-called “Child and Family Centre,” meanwhile, would see the bulk of the town’s childcare services relocate to the PRC, with renovations necessary at the James Street South site to accommodate the new users.
“A report that was prepared (for the Town) in April, 2010, suggested that, in order for the Early Learning Centre (currently located in the former West Ward school on Ontario Street) to sustain as a result of full-day learning (for all Junior and Senior Kindergarten students), the ELC would need to offer infant care within the daycare setting,” stated information provided to councillors for the Aug. 7 meeting. That report called either for “renovations at the existing ELC (or the construction of) a new facility.”
Due to the fact personnel matters could be a factor, the bulk of the Aug. 7 discussion regarding the proposed grant application for the Child and Family Centre was conducted behind closed doors. But, when councillors came back before the public, they quickly gave unanimous approval to pursue both Infrastructure Improvement Fund applications. They then asked McLlwain to weigh the merits of giving priority to one or the other.
“When you look at the parameters of the grant program, they both fit extremely well,” the CEO commented. “Both of them build economic capacity” — with the childcare hub providing jobs and making things easier for working families, and an improved sewer system establishing more favourable conditions for industries to set up shop in St. Marys.
Van Galen argued that, if the federal government approves some amount less than what St. Marys applies for, the sewage treatment plant might be the way to go. The childcare hub needs the entire amount to be implemented, he said, while minor improvements could be made at the sewage treatment plant that would still push the Town towards its final goal.
McLlwain responded, however, that with this program, the government has typically awarded the full amount on the application. He added that the treatment plant has been the recipient of federal government funding in the past, while the Pyramid Centre has been “a major capital project of the Town.
“They might see it as this being their opportunity to put some federal money into that project,” he said.
With a number of other councillors leaning towards setting the childcare hub as the priority, Van Galen conceded that “their points are very valid,” and added his voice in favour.