Alvinston Optimist turn down municipal loan

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    Private financing was secured before council approved an $80,000 loan

    Heather Wright/The Independent

    It looks like the Alvinston Optimist won’t be going to the bank of Brooke-Alvinston after all.

    At a meeting Dec. 10, council agreed to secure an $80,000 loan for the club so the long-talked about pavilion project can go ahead. At least one person, Mayor Dave Ferguson, is concerned the club is using the township as a bank.

    But now, Councillor Jamie Armstrong, who is also an Optimist member and was once the head of the building committee, says it will not be needed since the group has secured its own loan.

    It’s the latest in a long running saga to improve the Brooke-Alvinston-Inwood Community Centre with a pavilion.

    The issue goes back six years when, before he became a councillor, Armstrong came to council as a member of the Optimist proposing a massive renovation of the complex. The Optimist goal in 2015 was to raise enough money to renovate washrooms and dressing rooms, build a new canteen, provide a heated viewing area, and build a pavilion in a project which was estimated to cost $1 million at the time.

    But Armstrong and the Optimist grew frustrated as they applied for grants and failed to get funding.

    The project was broken into phases, but as that happened, the cost of construction climbed and the Optimist put fundraising on hold saying people in the community were not donating because the municipality was spending tax money to renovate another part of the arena.

    In 2019, council agreed to work with Armstrong – now a councillor – and the club on a pavilion attached to the arena near the ball diamonds.

    After years of debate, the project seemed ready to move forward with help from the municipality. Councillor Wayne Deans and Deputy Frank Nemcek asked council approve a motion by Armstrong which would see the town take out an $80,000 loan for the project which is now estimated to be about $356,000.

    Ferguson objected, concerned in part about the optics of the municipality lending a service club money.

    “Are we now a bank or a lending institution? Which group now heads to the municipality for a long-term loan for new buildings, such as the Legion which is looking forward to putting up a new facility across the road; they are a service club in the community also.”
    Armstrong argued the Optimist pavilion would become municipal property, unlike the new Legion.

    And while Ferguson was sharply opposed, other councillors were more concerned about the interest rate the municipal treasurer suggested – six per cent over five years.

    It was the interest rate, in the end, says Armstrong, which led the Optimist to turn down the municipal offer and move ahead with private funding.

    “We thought – the club thought – that was a little bit excessive. So (the municipality) did send back different terms and we just decided that it wasn’t worth continuing to argue about something like that.”

    Armstrong says the funding “was actually secured before we went to the council meeting, because we didn’t know how that would turn out… So, in order to quell everybody’s fears that the taxpayers were going to pick up the bill for it, we already had other plans to get money cheaper.”

    Armstrong is hopeful that since financing is now in place more people will come forward and donate to the project.