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Low Rents
Today's meeting of the City's Management Committee meant increased scrutiny for one boys and girls club, and shorter leases for community orgs.

The Government Management Committee stepped outside of its normal purview to look into the management of the Dovercourt Boys and Girls Club today.

Councillor Doug Ford took special interest after a deputation by Kevin Putnam, a former member of the Dovercourt Boys and Girls Club’s board. In his written submission, Putnam alleged the club jettisoned its executive leadership before clearing out of a recently-bought and renovated clubhouse at 45 Ernest Ave. The Club moved from a 6,900 sq. ft. property in favour of moving to the much smaller 1379 Bloor W., the below-market rent property before the committee.

“Total estimated losses from the facility which never opened are more than $300,000,” Putnam wrote. City staff said the club was a good tenant and left 45 Ernest without costing the city anything.

Justin Hanna, a manager for the Dovercourt Boys and Girls Club, also deputed before the committee. He defended the club, which he said continued to offer its after-school programs at other facilities during this period.

“In 2009, the Club believed it found its home at 45 Ernest Ave and began what it believed would be a simple capital project,” Hanna told the committee. “As the economic recession hit, the club was faced with dwindling donor dollars and a severe strain on its finances.”

Hanna said the capital expenses at 45 Ernest amounted to $100,000 a year and the organization decided to cut its losses and find a new home.

“At that time, like any organization would, the club took a look at all projects and expenditures that it was involved in, and decided — as part of a financial due diligent plan — it was best to end our project at 45 Ernest Ave. and concentrate on what we do best.”
Councillor Ford pressed Hanna about why the club would vacate the large space at 45 Ernest (6,900 sq ft) for the much smaller space at 1379 Bloor W (2,600 sq ft). Ford then took special interest in the structure of the staff.

Hanna told the committee the Dovercourt Boys and Girls Club has 30 paid staff, seven of whom are full-time and estimated the total cost of salaries was about half a million dollars.

Ford said it looked like mismanagement.

“I’m a big supporter of boys and girls clubs. I think we should rely on a lot of volunteers. The numbers are getting a little high, based on the private sector. [With] a half-million dollar payroll, you have a company worth millions of dollars.”

Ford ended up taking some of the amendments proposed by Putnam, including calling for the club to hire a new executive director and provide a new business plan. The committee approved the amendments and now the Club is facing increased scrutiny.

The below-market rent system allows community groups to rent properties the city controls — either through ownership or as a result of deals with developers — at cost. As Councillor Shelley Carroll later pointed out to the committee, 1379 Bloor W. used to be a city-run community centre. City staff say the program is neither an expense or revenue generator, since tenants pay for the upkeep of properties.

A FINAL SURPRISE

Councillor Paul Ainslie, who chairs the Government Management Committee, also amended the leases on below-market rent properties — including the Dovercourt Boys and Girls Club location — from five years to three.

Councillors Pam McConnell and John Filion, who sit on the committee, expressed some reservations that it may affect how community groups apply for funding. Councillor Filion ultimately voted in favour of decreasing the lease period.

Two councillors who are not on the committee, Shelley Carroll and Adam Vaughan also spoke to the issue of shortening leases. Carroll argued it jeopardizes their funding from other levels of government and arms-length organizations like the Ontario Trillium Foundation and the United Way.

Ainslie said the amendment is in advance of the city revaluating the below-market rent system this September.

 

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