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Town council distributes $60,000 in the form of community grants

Town council had over $129,000 in community grant requests, chopped it down to $60,000 though the original budgeted amount was just over $43,000.

Deliberations on the 2024 operating and capital budgets continued Tuesday after this issue of the RTT went to press, and depending on how things went, resume today at town hall. During the first night of deliberations Monday, town council upped the total amounts given to community groups to $60,000.

Some applicants will receive exactly what they asked for, others will get less than they wanted while some will receive nothing at all.

Amherstburg Community Services (ACS) had their $15,000 request granted, with the Amherstburg Food and Fellowship Mission getting the full $20,000 they had requested.

“They do so much for the community,” Councillor Diane Pouget said of ACS.

Pouget added Diageo retirees helped with food bank donations, where it was learned there is a dramatic increase in need.

“They can account for every penny,” said Pouget, of ACS.

Mayor Michael Prue agreed with comments from Deputy Mayor Chris Gibb and Councillor Linden Crain that they were making tough decisions, but Prue believed the donations were worth it. He said if they can invest in equipment, they can invest in people, adding he is proud to live in a community with such groups as ACS and the mission.

“I’m proud of those they help,” he stated. “I will go out there to the wrath of the taxpayer and say they are worth it.”

Prue estimated the increase in that budget item was one-eighth of one per cent.

Gibb said if there were increases over the $43,000, it would have to come through the tax levy. 

“If we want to increase the base budget, I can be talked into it,” he said. “If we fund it from reserves, I’ll have to say no.”

News wasn’t quite as good for the Amherstburg Historic Sites Association (AHSA), which operates the Park House Museum, and the Amherstburg Freedom Museum. The latter will not receive its requested $8,500, but rather $5,687. The AHSA will get $10,110. 

Both are 64 per cent of what they had requested, as town council tried to divide up the additional funding it had approved for community grants. 

After $750 was approved for Christ Church and over $8,400 was earmarked for the non-profit apartments at 182 Pickering Dr. due to a contractual commitment, council was going to divide the rest and give $7,898.50 to the Amherstburg Freedom Museum and AHSA. Prue argued the AHSA would get hurt by the move.

“I hardly think this is fair,” said Prue.

Prue said the Freedom Museum draws American tourists and has “excellent fundraisers,” and believed they could absorb a hit better than the Park House Museum. The latter operates on a “shoestring” budget with curator Stephanie Pouget-Papak putting in a lot of hours for what she is paid. If they lost nearly $10,000, he feared the worst.

“Nothing we do is fair,” countered Crain, noting most local municipalities don’t provide grants. “We’re shifting money on the fly. We’re going above and beyond already.”

Town council deferred a request from the Fort Malden Golden Age Club to waive user fees to use the building at 179 Victoria St. S. 

Pouget noted they have been waived for years with the club giving back to the community in many ways, but Gibb questioned giving them use of the building for free, citing minor hockey, minor soccer, the Fighting Island Boxing Club and The House Youth Centre among others pay to use town facilities.

Director of parks, facilities, recreation and culture Heidi Baillargeon gave a rough estimate that waiving fees could total over $60,880 but noted that is based on Libro Centre rates, with rates for 179 Victoria St. S. not finalized.

The VON Student Nutrition program requested $12,000, MADD requested $3,000 and Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157 asked for $55,000, the latter to assist with repairs to the Dalhousie St. building. 

Prue joined Councillor Don McArthur and Councillor Peter Courtney in conflict as all three are Legion members, with McArthur adding his band plays regular gigs there.

The Legion’s request was defeated in a 3-1 vote, with Pouget supporting. She said the Legion regularly gives back to the community and feared for its future if they were told no.

“I think it would be a real slap in the face if we said no to them,” she said.

Gibb noted there is tax relief provided to the Legion while Councillor Molly Allaire would have preferred it going towards programming rather than the building, though acknowledged it is a great organization.

By Ron Giofu

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