Municipality okays three-year lease for downtown tourist booth
By Liz Dadson
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Kincardine council has approved a three-year lease to relocate the tourist booth to 777B Queen Street in downtown Kincardine.
The lease was added to an already-lengthy agenda Wednesday night (March 19), after being received by members of council only five minutes before the start of the meeting.
Councillor Maureen Couture objected to the addition, saying there is no reason why the matter could not be dealt with at the first meeting in April, in two weeks' time.
Councillor Ron Coristine, policy chairman for tourism, said that Team Kincardine and municipal staff have met st some length to determine the details of the lease, and he was impressed with the level of detail provided.
Team Kincardine, which includes the Kincardine Chamber of Commerce, the Kincardine Business Improvement Area (BIA) and the Penetangore Regional Economic Development Corporation (PREDC), plans to co-locate with the Kincardine tourism department in the downtown office.
"They are not asking us to pay the lease," said Coristine. "They are asking for concurrence on the lease."
Councillor Kenneth Craig suggested adding the tourist booth lease to the agenda and receiving the information, and if it needs to be deferred, it can be done later.
"We are aware of the issues raised," he said. "It's not something new and different being added here."
Clerk Donna MacDougall said the municipality is required to give one month's notice in order to terminate the lease at the location on Highway 21. The goal was to terminate that lease March 31, with the new office open by May 1.
Council agreed to add the tourist booth lease to Wednesday night's agenda.
It was also agreed to allow Laura Haight to speak as a delegation because she had contacted the clerk, asking that if the tourist booth lease were added to the agenda, she would like to address it.
In her report to council, MacDougall said that council, at its Feb. 19 meeting, directed staff to proceed with relocating the visitor information centre to 777B Queen Street.
PROPOSED THREE-YEAR LEASE
In the proposed lease, the chamber would act as the sub-landlord, with the municipality, BIA and PREDC as sub-tenants.
March 17, the lease was provided to the municipality, said MacDougall. It sets out that the municipality would pay $22,206 annually ($1,850.50 per month). All rents would include utilities (hydro and water), weekly cleaning, Internet, floor mats as required, and proportionate share of the added rental fees which include exterior maintenance and snow removal, property insurance and property taxes. Each tenant would be responsible for his own telephone system/bill.
MacDougall said that the chamber and BIA had previously indicated they would contribute $3,000 each to the rent. However, that was based on Kincardine tourism, BIA and chamber jointly occupying the site. With PREDC now included, the chamber and BIA would each pay $2,508 annually ($209 per month) and PREDC, $5,028 annually ($419 per month).
"While the chamber and the BIA benefit financially with the addition of another tenant, through lower rent, the municipality does not," said MacDougall.
The municipality currently has 914 square feet at the location on the highway, which includes a storage area and a washroom, said MacDougall. At 777B Queen Street, the municipality would have the front area and one office for about 330 square feet (based on the floor plan provided) dedicated to its sole use, plus display/brochure racks on the north wall of the corridor as that is the only space available for them.
The other two front offices provide 84 square feet each, and the two smaller ones nearer the back are 60 square feet each, said MacDougall. These will be used by the chamber, the BIA and PREDC. The balance of the area is common space.
"The municipality has approximately 53 per cent of the office area; however, it is paying 68 per cent of the costs," said MacDougall. "An increase in the rental rate to the other three groups, with a corresponding decrease to the municipality, would even this out."
She added that a three-year term is requested; however, the municipality should reserve the right to provide notice of termination at the end of each year.
"There is no air-conditioning in 777B Queen Street," said MacDougall. "It has been indicated that the other groups do not have the financing for this, so it would have to be paid for by the municipality, if it is to be added.
"The municipality has requested a copy of the head lease and projected operating costs for the facility and is awaiting receipt of these documents. Without this information, it is difficult to analyze the proposed cost-sharing for the facility."
The staff recommendation was to accept the lease agreement with modified terms: confirm in the agreement that the municipality reserves the right to terminate the agreement at the end of each year, and with the chamber and BIA paying $3,000 each per year, at a minimum, as per their original commitment, and PREDC paying $6,000; and provide termination notice at the highway location.
MAKE TOURISM LIKE WE MEAN IT
In her delegation, Haight noted that the tourism strategic plan urges Kincardine to make tourism "like we mean it." However, diminishing the tourism department to 330 square feet from 914 square feet does not seem to reflect that, she said.
There are several flaws with the lease, said Haight, including the fact that the other groups don't want to pay for air-conditioning so that cost will be left up to the municipality; there is no provision for signage on the building; and the municipality is paying the highest rent but is only a sub-tenant, with the chamber holding the lease.
"I thought there would be real discussion about the downtown location versus the highway location," said Haight, "and some way to accommodate the travelling public."
She said there are two major hotels (and soon to be a third) at Highways 9 and 21, and many more tourist attractions beyond the downtown. Plus, Kincardine already pays Bluewater Summer Playhouse to be a temporary tourist booth, at a cost of $1,500 per year for 700 hours of service, in the downtown area.
"I think you're rushing things and this is a mistake," she said. "You've not considered all the facets, and if you have only 330 square feet for the tourism department, that's not making tourism 'look like you mean it'."
Coristine said he was concerned about the accuracy of Haight's facts, particularly the numbers she was using.
"It's not 330 square feet for the municipal tourism department," he said. "It's 800 square feet. Providing false information is a cheap way to behave."
"It's not my information, it's in the staff report," said Haight.
The Kincardine tourist information centre will be operating out of 777B Queen Street, in downtown Kincardine, as of May 1
"The lease says 800 square feet including the basement," said Couture. "Are you going to be putting staff in the basement?"
Councillor Jacqueline Faubert said there has been a lot of discussion at committees and with staff regarding the tourist information centre.
"This model is well used in other places, including Saugeen Shores," she said. "It brings together organizations that have no other intent than the well-being of the community they live in. They want to make it prosper and grow,"
"I thought we agreed to try the downtown location this year and we were going to have a kiosk on the highway," said deputy mayor Anne Eadie. "I support it downtown on a trial basis. Plus, we're redoing the interior of the arts centre which will take two years. We can evaluate (the downtown location) as we go along."
"I embrace putting all the tourism people in one spot," said councillor Candy Hewitt. "It creates a hub of tourism development, like a think-tank. It's not the be-all and end-all for tourism, but it's a good start."
Councillor Randy Roppel said he would agree with putting the tourism office in the arts centre which the municipality owns.
"I do not agree with spending taxpayers money on a building we don't own," he said. "We're not stopping these other three organizations from setting up in this building, but they seem to require the funding and backing of the municipality to do so. If you can't stand on your own, you never will."
Craig said relocating the tourist booth downtown was the decision of council. "I would prefer a two-year term and at the end, consider the option to move to 707 Queen (arts centre)," he said.
Faubert clarified that the location at 777B Queen Street is not costing more money; it's the same amount budgeted for the highway location.
POOR DECISION ON BEHALF OF THE TAXPAYERS
Couture said paying the same amount for half the space is a poor decision on behalf of the taxpayers.
"We would be paying $22,000 per year for 400 square feet of space," she said. "I want to see the head lease. I think we should defer this to the next meeting and have staff get all the information required before we make a decision."
Mayor Larry Kraemer said moving the tourist booth downtown is something council can do in support of the business community.
"We have a lot of great assets close to the downtown," he said. "There could be growing pains with the groups working together, but it's better than working individually."
Coristine said co-locating the groups all in one office is the smarter way to go. He said the 800 square feet for the tourism department is on the main floor plus the basement.
He said the lease offer was good only until 4 p.m. Thursday (March 20), so he put forward a motion to approve option three which was to accept the lease agreement as presented; and provide termination notice at the highway location.
Roppel put forward a motion to defer the issue until the April 2 meeting, which was seconded by Couture. But the motion was defeated.
Craig asked what happens if council does not accept the lease.
Chamber president Linda Bowers, the realtor who drew up the lease, said the chamber would not accept the offer by 4 p.m. Thursday if council did not approve it at Wednesday night's council meeting.
"I'm satisfied with the document in front of me," said Hewitt. "There are a lot of details required and they warrant more discussion, but I have no issue with the base lease agreement."
Committee-of-the-whole agreed with the lease agreement and in a recorded vote, it was approved, 7-2. In favour were Eadie, Craig, Faubert, Coristine, Hewitt, Kraemer and councillor Mike Leggett, while against were Couture and Roppel.
In a separate recorded vote, council agreed to terminate the lease of the current tourist booth on Highway 21, 7-2. In favour were Eadie, Craig, Faubert, Coristine, Hewitt, Kraemer and Leggett, while against were Couture and Roppel.
The lease on 777B Queen Street is set to run May 1, 2014, to April 30, 2017.
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Thursday, March 20, 2014