Powassan to weigh pros and cons of staying with economic development agency

·3 min read

POWASSAN - There's a strong signal Powassan may pull out of the Almaguin Community Economic Development (ACED).

The reason is money.

ACED was created a few years ago with grants from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp. and FedNor with FedNor being the larger contributor with an initial investment of $425,000.

When it was first formed, the member communities each contributed $10,000 annually toward the ACED budget.

The logic at the time was that, on their own, Almaguin communities are too small to each have individual standalone economic development offices.

But if financial resources were pooled together and combined with provincial and federal money, it was possible to create a larger economic development agency.

But this is the final year for FedNor funding and, so far, there is no indication any further money is coming for 2023.

Working on the belief FedNor won't be providing any further funds, ACED created various funding models where the member municipalities account for the majority of the budget.

The model the ACED board agreed to float to the municipalities was one where a municipality's share of the budget is based on a combination of its assessment, total population and total households.

That's where the problem lies for Powassan.

If ACED works on a $300,000 budget, Powassan's share is $51,790.43.

Powassan's share jumps to $72,685.65 if ACED opts to work with a $400,000 budget.

In either case, Mayor Peter McIsaac says Powassan would be covering about one-sixth of the ACED budget.

The budget would be spread across the nine remaining municipalities plus the Almaguin Chamber of Commerce, which would contribute $10,000.

ACED began with 10 municipalities but Magnetawan served notice last year that 2022 would be its last with the organization because the town council didn't believe the municipality was getting value for its annual contribution of $10,000.

Councillors Randy Hall and Debbie Piekarski asked what the deadline is to send notice if Powassan pulls out.

Reacting to the large increase that Powassan would face Piekaski said, “I'm pretty sure we can all agree this is not going to fly.”

McIsaac agreed, saying he didn't believe Powassan could afford the dollar amounts in the proposed budget compared to what its contribution has been in the past.

“I think we currently get value for our $10,000 investment,” McIsaac said.

“But I don't think the return is there on a $72,000 investment.”

McIsaac told council he believed the municipality “was better off trying to do something internally to get some economic development in the community without spending that kind of money up front.”

Coun. Dave Britton told his colleagues the $72,685.65 proposed in the budget represented more than a two per cent mill rate increase.

“That just not affordable for us,” Britton said.

Britton said if this was the only option, it would likely be best if Powassan left ACED.

McIsaac said at its next regular meeting council will have to weigh the pros and cons of whether to remain with ACED or not and make a decision at that same meeting.

Despite where the majority of the vote is most likely headed at council's next meeting, McIassac expressed a bit of optimism where FedNor was concerned.

McIsaac represents Powassan on the ACED board and told his council that although it's not known with 100 per cent certainty that more FedNor funding will be approved, the board is “anticipating getting FedNor funding.”

The Mayor again emphasized it's not known if any more federal dollars will be approved, but if they are “it won't be at the amount that it was in the past.”

Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The North Bay Nugget

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