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YMCA project in downtown Barrie secures Simcoe County funding by tight vote

‘This is a Pandora’s Box,’ said Bradford’s deputy mayor of providing funding to capital projects

Growing concern at the county council table regarding funding of capital projects boiled over during discussions of a YMCA project on Tuesday – but it wasn’t enough to sway the vote.

County of Simcoe council voted to give $2.5 million toward the YMCA’s regional hub project, however wording was added to the motion that was passed so the funding would have to go directly to the Youth Haven transitional housing component and child care services, and the funding is contingent on the project going forward as presented.

The new building, planned to be built at Dunlop Street West and Bradford Streets in Barrie, will be home to Simcoe County’s first standalone transitional housing unit for youth (planning for 20 beds), in partnership with Youth Haven. It will also house Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre’s (RVH) cardiovascular rehabilitation program, offer an expanded youth/senior centre, aquatic centre, YMCA youth services (addressing employment, life skills, entrepreneurship, youth at risk), offer support for new Canadians through YMCA Immigrant Services, traditional health and fitness programming, community meeting spaces and a public café. To read our full story about the project presentation at county committee of the whole, click here.

As separated cities, Barrie and Orillia were not present during the council meeting to vote. Some councillors took it as their opportunity to complain about what they perceive to be a bias toward projects in those cities.

“I’m totally opposed to the amendment... and I’m opposed to the motion. This is a Pandora’s Box we’re opening up here,” said Bradford Deputy Mayor James Leduc. “This is a private business. We’re here, ready to throw money at a capital project that nobody else has stepped up for. This is a private organization. We do not need to fund this.”

Leduc said the City of Barrie has already received ample money for affordable housing.

“There are municipalities here who haven’t had any money for affordable housing. In Bradford, we haven’t got any affordable (housing) funding, and we were third on the list (for need),” said Leduc.

“Let Barrie step up and do their job,” he added.

Adjala-Tosorontio Mayor Floyd Pinto echoed Leduc’s sentiment.

“When is the county going to put up funds for a facility for my (town’s) youth?” asked Pinto. “We should be spreading out the funding and locations.”

Ramara Mayor Basil Clarke took issue with pulling money from reserves anytime something comes up that needs funding.

“Why do we have the reserves? We charge the taxpayer money to put in a fund to give away to the first ask that comes in the door?” asked Clarke. “I think our taxpayers would quite oppose that. It’s not free money.”

While Clarke re-iterated his point from committee of the whole that the YMCA does wonderful work as an organization, he also shared concerns with handing out cheques.

“You’re not working with somebody when you’re funding them. A partnership doesn’t work that way,” said Clarke. “The YMCA has been around longer than Simcoe County has. I think we should be leaving them alone and let them run their programs and we’ll run ours.”

An amendment to the motion was moved by Tiny Deputy Mayor Steffen Walma with additional changes suggested by Innisfil Mayor Lynn Dollin adding the $2.5 million go directly toward the Youth Haven transitional housing component of the project and child care services portion, and the funding be contingent on the project going ahead as presented.

The amendment was passed 19-13. The new full motion put on the floor to provide the funding was passed 22-10.

Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen brings nine years of experience to her role as regional reporter for Village Media, primarily covering county matters, court, Collingwood and Barrie matters
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