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March 1, 2012 permalink
After putting up their new $3.4 million facility, Niagara FACS has gone hat-in-hand to Niagara Falls council and obtained a refund of their $48,000 development fee. They will be following up with a request for a refund of $83,000 from Niagara Region.
Niagara Falls council refunds nearly $48,000 in development charges for FACS building
Niagara Falls council rejected a staff report and voted to refund almost $48,000 in development fees for the newly renovated and expanded Family and Chidren’s Services building on Canadian Drive.
Bureaucrats had said the city’s bylaw does not allow for refunds or exemptions for capital projects such as the $3.4-million FACS facility, which opened last fall. FACS had applied to either recover the $47,940 in charges, or receive a municipal grant in the same amount. City treasurer Todd Harrison also noted it is not the municipality’s responsibility to fund social agencies like FACS.
“It’s not our mandate,” he said.
However, councillors were cognizant of the fact that they have funded other organizations that also do not fall under the authority of local government.
“It’s very difficult to say no to this when we give money to other groups who don’t do nearly the same amount,” said Coun. Joyce Morocco, echoing the mood of those around the table. Coun. Wayne Thomson made the motion to support the FACS request with Coun. Victor Pietrangelo seconding. It passed unanimously.
Politicians made the decision Tuesday night in Committee of the Whole outside the view of television cameras.
The staff report noted that council has waived development charges in the past, such as to the Boys and Girls Glub of Niagara and the Stamford Volunteer Firemen’s Association, but those requests were made prior to construction of their projects.
FACS executive director Chris Steven said an application was made to the City and the Region, but discussions were taking so long that the building had to move ahead without an answer from either level of government. He was grateful for council’s support, but not necessarily pleased his group had to come back and refute a staff report.
“We’re all stewards of public funds and I certainly respect that council has a tremendous responsibility. Our board of directors … is also stewards of public funds and where there’s a reason to believe we have a shared obligation (for) support, we will turn over that last rock, we will come back to council.
“We had visited council couple years ago announcing our campaign without a particular ask for a grant or anything like that, but we had worked with city staff about a possible exemption on these development charges, and I think they anticipated to hear from us again.
“We’re not trying to be difficult. It’s a matter of asking council to join with us on this project.”
Requests such as these always on the surface seem difficult for councillors, who are facing a massive deficit and struggling to come to terms with how it can be wrestled to the ground. Yet while bemoaning the social and community services they are asked to fund on one hand, council has yet to cut a single grant or fee-for-service budget in this year’s attack on the balance sheet.
FACS will now take its request to the Region, where it hopes to have $83,150 in development charges reversed.
The FACS building in Niagara Falls was constructed with $1.67 million in infrastructure funding from the federal and provincial governments, $750,000 from the McCall MacBain Foundation and $50,000 from the Town of Fort Erie in addition to many private donations.
Source: Bullet News Niagara