To cap what Coun. Lloyd Ferguson called the “toughest” project of his political career, Hamilton city council voted unanimously to approve a funding model for an arts and culture centre in Ancaster.
The Ward 12 councillor thanked both city staff and the residents of Ancaster for their work on the project, which has been in the works since 2014.
At that time, residents were told they needed to raise $3 million to help with funding. Ferguson said they exceeded that expectation by raising $5 million.
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The project faced some setbacks when the estimated cost increased from about $15 million to $22 million due to cost overruns related to architectural and archaeological studies.
The project fell even more into jeopardy when the Ford government cancelled a $3 million provincial funding commitment made by the former Liberal government.
Ferguson called that move “unconscionable” and “100 per cent political”.
“I can assure you, the people of Ancaster won’t forget this — that they pulled the rug out from underneath us,” said Ferguson, adding that the project had already been publicly announced and confirmed.
He said the facility will be used by people across the city, including summer training programs for children.
“They have room for 400, and they open it up every May online. And for the last four years, within 15 minutes of it going online, it’s sold out. And when they get this facility, they’ll be able to double that.”
Ferguson added that, following a suggestion from Ward 3 Councillor Nrinder Nann, the city will look into working with CityKidz to help children from across Hamilton access the arts centre.
The city has approved a funding strategy for an additional $12 million with money from the federal gas tax, as well as reserve funds and an area rating charge on Ancaster residents over a ten-year period. The area rating cost on residents would work out to approximately $2.7 million — nearly the same amount that was initially promised by the provincial government.
Ward 9 Councillor Brad Clark said the province still has an opportunity to change its mind and take that load off of Ancaster residents.
“They still have that opportunity between now and the close of our 2020 budget to actually forego that tax that is really being put on the residents in Ancaster because of the loss of the $3 million,” said Clark.
“So they can still fix this. And I’m hoping they’re paying attention.”