Iroquois waterfront donation with strings has council in knots

A bird's eye view of the proposed Iroquois Commons waterfront redevelopment plan. The project, presented to South Dundas council June 2, 2015, has a price tag of roughly $3.8 million. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

IROQUOIS – A sizable donation offered to move Iroquois’ waterfront development ahead has South Dundas council trying to find a way to make it work.

Iroquois business magnate John Ross of Ross Video has offered $50,000 to move the project ahead, with the first phase comprised of expanding the beach area, remediation of the shoreline and relocating a drainage ditch.

It would be a big first step for the $3.8 million Iroquois Commons project.

But the money comes with a proviso from Ross that the work be carried out by an Iroquois contractor – Lloyd McMillan Equipment Ltd.

The council has to make a decision before the end of the month or the donation is off the table.

The beach expansion phase and associated work would cost $80,900. With the $50,000 donation and $15,000 remaining in the 2015 Iroquois waterfront budget, the council would have to find $15,000 to $20,000 somewhere.

The other caveat is, under municipal rules, any work over $5,000 has to go to public tender.

The concern is having a portion of taxpayer money spent on a contractor what wasn’t hired through the municipality.

“I don’t know how we get past our procurement policy,” Coun. Archie Mellan wondered aloud. Mellan was prepared to “begrudgingly approve” the idea because the municipality doesn’t want to lose the $50,000.

While trying to figure out a way to make it work, Acting CAO Shannon Geraghty questioned whether they could get the specifications for the project from the contractor and then tender to those specifications.

“I know that other contractors would like to have a shot at this. I don’t like it…it’s not kosher,” Coun. Mellan said.

Following the meeting, Deputy Mayor Jim Locke said they want to “work within the rules and that’s what we proved tonight. It took some time but we want to work within the rules,” when asked about the options that were explored during the meeting.

“The big question is, can a person donate $50,000 and dictate how it’s going to go and I guess that’s what it is,” Locke said.

The township will be consulting with its lawyer and reviewing its procurement policy before discussing it again and possibly making a decision on Nov. 17.

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