By Bruce Corcoran
& Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The community developers behind the Imagine Chatham-Kent project are pleased the municipality is moving ahead with the due diligence process.
Rob Myers, spokesperson for the group, said he was impressed by how council handled the issue at the Aug. 8 council meeting.
“I thought it was good that council stood up,” Myers said. “Councillors asked a lot of good questions and provided good comments. I think all councillors are doing their due diligence. Our group is happy with the results.”
Myers, Ron Nydam, Don Tetrault, Jim Bullock, and Jessica and Pete Tsirimibis comprise the development team that purchased the DCC more than a year ago and put forward the Imagine CK proposal.
Myers said he looks forward to what lies ahead.
“I think all of our work over the past 14 months is paying off. I think it will bode well for the municipality,” he said.
Myers said municipal administration certainly did its homework on the proposal.
“Bruce McAllister and all the folks at city hall have been working hard at it and digging into the numbers,” he said.
Myers said he believes the project would have many, many eyes on expenses for the project.
“We, as well as council, and the taxpayers of Chatham-Kent, will watch this and make sure the costs don’t get out of control,” he said.
According to a 12-page report released to council, initial estimates for Imagine C-K run between $115 million to $125 million.
However, the value of the municipal infrastructure, including the Civic Centre, the Chatham Public Library and the Chatham Cultural Centre that will be affected have been appraised at close to $10-million in value.
Council also needs to consider expensive upgrades to aging infrastructure.
The civic centre alone needs $25-million in repairs, while the Chatham-Kent Public Library expansion estimate is $5.5-million.
The cost of new seats at the Kiwanis Theatre currently sits at $450,000.
Building a business case for Imagine C-K will be part of the due diligence process.
Chief financial officer Gord Quinton there is no specific funding available for such a project, noting government grant programs tend to come up quickly and it’s important to be prepared.
“I think it’s our job to start knocking on doors and get the conversation going as quickly as possible,” Quinton said.
Mayor Darrin Canniff, said he’s been in “extensive discussions” with Chatham-Kent’s federal and provincial representatives and senior government officials advocating for Imagine C-K.
“Yes, we’re not going to leave any rock unturned,” Canniff told council, stressing the municipality will explore “all options” to obtain funding.
Interim CAO Tony Haddad said continuing with the due diligence process will better position Chatham-Kent to respond to funding opportunities, reflecting the private sector partnership, something he said is “highly regarded” with these types of projects.