Ninety per cent want Petrolia to turn back Nicol cash

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A Petrolia councillor says he’ll try to have the Nicol Scholarship Fund money given to the town turned back to the foundation for scholarships during the next budget session.
Joel Field made the comments after hearing the results of an online poll taken by The Independent after officials from the foundation came to town council Sept. 9 outlining how the town’s grants are right now the lion’s share of the money given out each year.
The fund established by Robert Nicol, was to give up to 10 student scholarships a year for 25 years to LCCVI students. After 25 years, the foundation applied to have the terms of the scholarship fund extended. To do that, it needed the town’s approval since it was to get $1.6 million if the fund closed as planned.
Council of the day agreed to instead accept two $10,000 US grants to help with maintenance of Victoria Hall and the library.
But in 2016, the interest generated on the $1.3 million principal dropped and then Mayor John McCharles received council’s approval to turn one of the scholarships back to the foundation, so another student could benefit.
This year, council decided to keep all of scholarship money.
While foundation officials acknowledged the town’s right to the cash, Tim Hummel said he wanted councillors to think about what the scholarship should be.
The idea is expected to be discussed during budget talks late this fall. So The Independent took an online survey this week to see what taxpayers wanted. Of the 122 responses received in six days, over 90 per cent felt the town should turn back some of the money to scholarships. Seventy-two per cent said it should go back to the fund for as long as it’s needed. Nearly 16 per cent thought only half of the money should be donated back.
“I am fine with them donating $10,000 a year, but only if it goes to students in lower income families as it was at the start.
“Now grades are all that matters when it is harder for poor students to volunteer and attend school so grades may not be as high,” said one respondent.
About 9.8 per cent of people responding felt the town should use the cash to maintain its buildings.
“The Nicol fund was mishandled for years giving it to 20 plus students despite marks in the 80s. Now students in the high 90s suffer since only one to two awards are given a year,” said one respondent.
Mayor Brad Loosley, who pointed out the foundation didn’t follow the guidelines of the will, handing out far more than 10 scholarships in some years, says he fully supports the Nicol Foundation’s work.
But he says if council donates the money back to the scholarship fund, it will have to come from somewhere else, including increased taxes.
But Field says The Independent’s poll reflects what many of the people he has talked to are saying; the scholarship should be preserved.
“We need to not look at today, we need to look at the future and the future is for it to go on,” he says adding “it’s a small amount in a big budget.”
Field intends to ask council to donate the cash back to the foundation during the 2020 budget deliberations.