The return of the Portage Landing Parkette in Bala was in jeopardy due to questions about the work of the developer.
Several Muskoka Lakes councillors expressed their displeasure and belief that Swift River Energy Limited (SREL) has yet to complete its job as agreed to in its contract with the municipality.
SREL has been responsible for the construction and running of the water power plant in Bala. Another aspect of their involvement with the municipality is the development of a Portage Landing Park beside the power plant that, when completed, would be returned to Township ownership. In order to ensure the security of the project, the township was given $200,000 in securities from SREL, to be released upon the completion of the project.
Now SREL says that they have completed the park and would like to transfer the ownership of the park to the Township and for the return of their security. However, several members of council aren’t satisfied.
Ward A Councillor Glenn Zavitz said he was unsure about the return of the funds.
“I don’t know why we would give them their funds back when they in fact have not completed the project to the fulsome extent of the contract or the agreement,” Zavitz said.
Zavitz said his main reason for not supporting the release of the security was his concern that SREL has not honored its commitment to fully remediate the site.
“I probably can’t support this. In accepting the park, if we’re giving them their 200,000 bucks back and we may have to incur the costs of remediation.” Zavitz said.
There was confusion among councillors and staff about which lands were being referred to and if they were in fact Township responsibility.
Another Ward A Councillor Ruth-Ellen Nishikawa agreed with Zavitz’s questioning if the job was truly completed.
“I just don’t want to take over something that is a little bit premature in my opinion. But again, there are other locations that are in our township that I don’t feel SwiftRriver has completed their promises to the to the community.” Nishikawa said.
Nishikawa says that SREL has a responsibility to finish the job.
“(SREL) have lands that they occupied, and they should be cleaned up,” Nishikawa said.
Municipal staff was unsure if council had any options in attempting to withhold part of the securities.
“Quite frankly, if the obligations have been met, I think, contract two would dictate that funds are returned,” according to Muskoka Lakes CAO Derrick Hammond.
Director of Financial Services Mark Donaldson told council that the withholding a section of the current security wasn’t possible.
“We currently hold a letter of credit. It’s not actual cash that we’re holding, and we’re agreeing to is just to release that letter of credit. To try to parse that out, we would have to get a new letter of credit, issued for a lesser amount if that was the desire,” Donaldson said.
Several councillors pushed back insisting that a split of the securities could and should be done.
“As far as the letter of credit being a letter of credit, I’m sure it seems appropriate to hold back something,” said Councillor Frank Jaglowitz.
Nishikawa believed that the Township withholds parts of securities or payment in other circumstances.
“We see this often when it comes to improvements that require storm and water management, for instance where we’ve seen that we will release a certain amount. And I don’t see why that should be different in this case,” Nishikawa said.
Director of Public Works Ken Becking pulled up the municipal contract with SREL and informed council that he did not believe they had any options to withhold.
“Now, to me, it’s pretty clear, there are no caveats there are no, ‘yes, buts’. There is no provision in the agreement for holdbacks. I think you’re obliged to release the securities,” Becking said.
After a clarification that the securities in question were only related to the parkette and not related to other projects or pieces of property Zavitz made a final point saying that he believes the township will have to clean up the properties.
“(SREL) ain’t ever gonna fix that parking lot. And I think we’re stuck with it and I hope that we, as a township, take that responsibility to go in and fix it, because it’s a mess,” Zavitz said.
On the resolution council voted seven to three in favour of taking ownership of the park and releasing the securities. Councillors Zavitz and Nishikawa voting against and Councillor Jaglowitz abstained.
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