2022 NEWSMAKERS: Campus of Care proposal moves ahead

The past 12 months have brought a provincial announcement for long-term care beds that progressed to a request for proposal to create a Campus of Care in The Blue Mountains.

In January, the province announced an allotment of 160 long-term care beds for the proposal. Since that time, the town has been working through the process.

The Campus of Care project would see a new long-term care centre built on 32 acres of land at 125 Peel Street. The project would also include: a retirement residence, staff housing, a possible childcare facility, commercial components and environment and parkland features.

At council’s most recent meeting, town staff said the initial stages of the process are nearing an end and the town should have more clarity very soon.

“We’re nearing the end of the RFP (request for proposals) submission date,” CAO Shawn Everitt said at the Dec. 15 council meeting.

Everitt said the town continues to work through the confidential RFP process and if a bid is received, council will see a concept for the Campus of Care in the first quarter of 2023.

“This council will be in a position to review what a proponent may be proposing,” he said.

The town has gone through a long and winding process to get to the point where it is on the verge of finding out if a proponent is willing to bid on the campus of care concept.

Below is a timeline for the path the project has followed in 2022.

Jan. 28 - beds announced

Provincial minister of long-term care Paul Calandra announces the province has allocated 160 beds to The Blue Mountains for the project.

“We're looking [to] start construction no later than 2024, maybe even 2023, but let's see how fast we can get it done, and then occupancy by 2026,” said then-mayor Alar Soever.

March, 2022 - vision and timeline announced

The town releases its initial vision and construction timeline for the Campus of Care project.

The 160-bed long-term care facility, along with attainable housing for workers, will be mandatory components of the project and the town said the following could be possible inclusions for the project:

The debate about the project begins to consider what should be mandatory aspects of the project and how public consultation should occur as the project moves forward.

“The one thing I would do is add to the mandatory elements, some seniors attainable housing, and also the childcare facility – childcare is vital for the successful operation of the long-term care home as well,” said then-mayor Alar Soever. “Imagine the attraction for the long-term care workers of having attainable housing with a childcare facility on the same site as they work.”

May, 2022 - MZO completed

The Town of The Blue Mountains completes a request for a minister’s zoning order (MZO) to move the project forward.

“A significant amount of work has been completed by a number of staff. A key aspect of this is trying to keep the public informed and also keep this moving,” said CAO Shawn Everitt.

May 24, 2022 - council votes against adding extra “mandatory” elements to the project

Council votes against a resolution from Coun. Andrea Matrosovs to add mandatory elements to the project. Matrosovs' motion would have beefed up the town’s “mandatory” requirements for the campus of care project. Council ultimately voted against the resolution from Matrosovs, expressing concerns that making too many elements mandatory might limit the number of proponents interested in bidding on the project.

“If we put so many stipulations on this and somebody can’t hit it, we jeopardize the whole project,” said Deputy Mayor Peter Bordignon.

July 6, 2022 - RFQ issued

In July, the town issued a request for qualification for interested proponents to come forward to be pre-qualified in order to bid on the project

“It’s a good news story. It’s a milestone moment,” said then-mayor Alar Soever. “It gives people a chance to scope out the project.”

Nov. 2022 - RFP stage of the process starts

In an update to council, CAO Everitt says the qualification process is complete and the project has moved into the request for proposal (RFP) stage of the process. The CAO also notes that the province would like the town to pivot from a minister's zoning order to the new community infrastructure and housing accelerator program. The CAO advises that property is now vacant and the local residents can expect activity on site, including the demolition of existing buildings. Members of council express concerns about ensuring the public is kept up-to-date about the project.

“This is indeed very exciting. I appreciate this update at this time,” said Coun. Paula Hope, who inquired about a town communication plan for Campus of Care. “It’s very important for this news to be shared with our taxpayers.”

Soever agreed that more had to be done to update the public about the process. He said it is important to communicate that the Campus of Care project, when complete, will be owned and operated by the successful proponent and not the town.

“This is the main thing people don’t understand. I keep hearing: why is the town getting into the long-term care business? Well, we’re not,” said Soever.

Dec. 15, 2022 - council votes against resolution to pause the project

Controversy hits at a council meeting when staff bring forward a resolution to pivot from the MZO request to the new community infrastructure and housing accelerator program. A resolution introduced by Coun. Gail Ardiel calls for the project to be paused. Town staff said pausing the project could jeopardize the nearly complete request for proposals process and could ultimately result in the loss of the allotment of 160 long-term care beds. Council rejects the resolution in a 4-2 vote.

“I’m looking forward to finishing the process of the request for proposals so we have something to bring out to the public in the new year,” said Mayor Andrea Matrosovs. “We don’t have something to show the public at the moment. We need to know what is viable. I am unable to support putting a pause on this.”

Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca