Paddy Walker Heritage Society requests relief from municipal loan
By Liz Dadson
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The Paddy Walker Heritage Society is requesting relief from the loan repayments it is making each year to the Municipality of Kincardine.
In committee-of-the-whole Wednesday night (Jan. 18), society president Bob Bullen noted the Walker House is Kincardine's oldest standing building and the oldest remaining hotel in Grey and Bruce counties.
The Walker House is home to the Paddy Walker Heritage Society which operates it as a heritage centre, providing exhibits, events and programs that interpret local history.
"The Walker House's full restoration in 2008 was made possible by many dedicated volunteers of the community along with a loan from the municipality and a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation," said Bullen.
Over the past two years, the society has been able to secure external funding to run summer exhibits, and accessed federal funding to employ summer students. Bullen said the society plans to continue doing this.
However, that means there is little money left to repay the municipal loan, he said. "We have a strong desire to continue to fulfill our heritage, culture and arts mandate. The society is requesting to revise the loan agreement to repay $1,000 per year to the municipality or a similar less onerous mutually-agreed-upon amount."
Bullen said the organization will repay the entire loan but the current schedule of payments will not allow the society to maintain the current level of operations at the Walker House.
"The society anticipates that you appreciate the value of the Walker House as a tourist destination and a community resource for local history in the form of storage, exhibits, events and programming," he said. "The society welcomes the opportunity to work with municipal staff to redraft the loan agreement to meet all these needs."
Councillor Kenneth Craig said the Walker House is certainly an icon in the municipality. However, he does not believe the current repayment plan is onerous. "I suggest we send this agreement back to staff and have them negotiate a new one."
"A great deal of work and volunteer time has gone into this building," said councillor Maureen Couture, "and we appreciate all that hard work."
She noted that the Kincardine Dance Hall Pavilion also received a loan for about $100,000 from the municipality at around the same time as the Walker House society, and the municipality later forgave a substantial portion of the pavilion loan.
Couture also pointed out that the pavilion belongs to the municipality, while the Walker House does not.
She suggested council take the money from the old Ward 1 reserve fund, which the municipality wants to use up, and pay down some of that loan. "It would help this group which is having trouble raising money to operate."
Deputy mayor Anne Eadie asked how much money is owing on the Walker House loan.
Mayor Larry Kraemer said the loan was negotiated in October, 2007, for $100,000. The repayment was to be $5,000 per year from 2008-2013, with a total of $25,000 paid by 2013. Then another $50,000 paid from 2014-2021, and the final $25,000 due in 2022.
Graham Mahood of the society, told council that over the past three-and-a-half years, the heritage centre has been able to meet its operating expenses but finds it a problem to meet the annual $5,000 repayment each year. "We usually end the year with about $1,000 surplus which is why we are requesting a reduced payment."
Bullen said when the loan was negotiated, the centre had one-a-a-half paid staff. Now, it has no staff; it operates solely on volunteers
Kraemer said the municipality could extend it to a 30-year loan, dropping the annual repayment to about $2,000 to $3,000.
"We should check out what was done with the pavilion," he said. "There were arguments at the time about the fairness between the two buildings. We need to do our homework."
He suggested deferring the item for two weeks until staff can bring back a report about both buildings. In the meantime, the society would not go into arrears on its payments, he said.
"We have been looking for whatever grants we can get," said Bullen. "We receive $1,500 to $2,000 from Enbridge and from the municipality, and a federal grant to hire summer students, and that's it."
Council agreed to have staff check into the loans for both the pavilion and the Walker House, and bring back a report. It was also agreed that the society will not go into default on payments until this issue is resolved.
The Kincardine Times reported that on Feb. 18, 2009, council agreed to forgive a $122,500 loan for the Friends of the Pavilion. Nine months later, on Nov. 10, 2009, council agreed to take out a $350,000 loan over 10 years to help the Friends of the Pavilion pay off their bills after the group had renovated the building and made it operational.
Ironically, council's original plan for the pavilion was to burn it down and be rid of it because it had a termite infestation.
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Thursday, January 19, 2012