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July 13, 2003

City may have dropped the ball

From: Barrie Advance, Canada - Jul 13, 2003

The recent controversy over the long-term-care facility for the deaf, set to be built on Big Bay Point Road, is going to cost the city at the very minimum some poor public relations.

Or, in the worst case scenario, more than $1 million in settlement costs and legal fees.

In Friday's Advance, we published a story about how the city is digging in its heels, and playing hardball, with the Ontario Mission of the Deaf (OMD), which is building a $13-million facility for hard-of-hearing senior citizens.

The organization had the foresight to purchase approximately 70 acres of rural land back in 1984. Now, it sits on prime development property, almost at the eastern city boundary. In return for providing services such as water and sewers to the site, the city wants the OMD to relinquish its waterfront lands to the city, to be used for parkland. If the request is not fulfilled, the city will insist on an one-foot "reserve" being placed off Royal Parkside Drive, a "Berlin Wall" of sorts, where no sewer line shall ever pass.

We think that stinks.

No matter how you cut it, the city seems to be in a no-win situation. It's impossible to try and depict the Ontario Mission of the Deaf, headed by the venerable Rev. Bob Rumball, as a rapacious developer, trying to cheat the city and its citizens out of waterfront property.

No doubt, there is another side to the story to be told. But keeping Barrie ratepayers in the dark as to the goings-on behind closed doors at an endless series of in-camera sessions is no way to communicate in this day and age. And not having any municipal representation at Friday morning's ground-breaking ceremony seems petty and vindictive. After all, how often does a $13-million project show up on the city's doorstep?

Nor does Ald. Dave Morrison's (chairperson of Barrie's development services committee) bleating that July and August are considered "vacation time" for local politicians hold water. Hey, Dave, school may be out for the summer, and cottage life may beckon, but your constituents deserve 12-month representation from their elected officials.

There may be still be time to save face, before the November election draws near.

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