Council supports festival, radio station bids

Centre Well­ing­ton council has supported bids for grants that would see a major development in Bissell Park in Elora and a radio sta­tion for Fergus and Elora.

Recreation Director Andy Goldie explained to council the Bissell park proposal includes an amphitheatre for the Elora Festival as well as a custom ice rink.

The money would come from an Industry Canada Com­munity Adjustment Fund On­tario grant, and he recom­men­ded council make the project its top priority. The total cost of the first phase of the project would be $2.35-million.

Councillors previously heard funding would include $125,000 from the Grand River Agricultural Soci­ety, and the remainder would include one-third from the Elora Festival in the form of rentals for ten years, one-third from township slots revenue, and another one third from provincial grants and partners. Goldie noted another $50,000 from the Elora Lions would be used separately for the boardwalk planned for Elora’s biggest park.

Goldie explained the deadline to apply for the grant was June 12, and Mayor Joanne Ross-Zuj said council had to decide that night because there was no council meeting until after the deadline.

Council has already approv­ed the design work for the park, and the grant would mean “a permanent facility for the Elora Festival” and the project would boost tourism in the winter. Goldie noted the costs had gone up to include washrooms and storage facilities, and he foresaw increased costs be­cause of winter construction.

Councillors were then sur­prised to learn the grant appli­cation is for the entire cost of the project, and there would be no need for township funds to support the work. Goldie said the only costs to be borne by council are “a small amount for consulting fees.”

Mayor Joanne Ross Zuj said the proposal is “a wonderful opportunity” and noted she has learned at county council such grants will be coming for two years – for projects that are ready to start immediately. The fund is designed to provide jobs quickly.

Councillor Walt Visser said, “I don’t understand the fund­ing.”

Goldie said, “This grant does not speak to shares [of costs]. The township does not have to do one-third of the funding.” The grant would cover the entire $2.3-million cost of the project.

Councillor Shawn Watters said, “There are very few [muni­cipalities] in position to apply for this.”

Goldie replied, “Touch wood.”

Councillor Bob Foster ask­ed again if there is a cost to the township, and wondered if the slots money is needed.

Goldie replied, “No. That was a previous proposal. This project will be funded 100 per cent.”

Council then approved the park work as its top priority for the grant.

Media Centre Wellington

Economic Development Of­fi­cer Dave Rushton then pre­sent­ed a proposal the township’s Chamber of Com­merce and Fergus and Elora Business Improve­ment Areas have been discussing for several months for a not-for-profit community radio station.

The group would be named Media Centre Wellington and the station run by volunteers.

Rushton said the station would help merchants to target local shoppers, especi­al­ly those shopping out of town. The proposal would be contingent upon a grant from the same source as the Bissell Park pro­posal.

Rushton said the station would have 50 watts of power, because after that, it takes much more work to get ap­pro­val from the Canadian Radio-television Tele­­communications Com­mis­sion (CRTC). He said the proponents have been in touch with the Erin group that runs a radio station there, and that volunteers from Cogeco TV, in Fergus, have volunteer­ed their time to help get the station running.

Chamber representative Garth Green said in an inter­view the station would include more than radio, and would be available on the internet and for podcasts.

Rushton said that people travelling to Florida in the win­ter could listen to Elora Rocks and Fergus Devils hockey gam­es on the internet if they wish­ed.

Green told council the station will also support local artists with such things as recordings. He noted of the federal grant program, “It’s not too often that people say there’s $100-million available.”

Foster asked if the $150,000 grant request would be all federal funding, and Green said it is.

The first step would be to hire a consultant to help with the CRTC application, and an­other $80,000 to $90,000 is needed for equipment. That would include a tower, and he said all of Fergus and Elora would be within the station sig­nal. That is unlike Erin, which has now applied for a 250 watt station because the signal does not reach Hills­burgh because of the hilly topography in Erin.

Watters said with council applying for a grant for Bissell Park, he is concerned those mak­ing the grant decisions might reject the $2.3-million request and provide $150,000 to the radio proposal as a way to keep the township happy.

But Rushton said there is no criteria established for the grant money, and “They’re concern­ed about getting this money out.” He added the cash is available only for places under 250,000 population.

Councillor Walt Visser said he has some financial concerns about the proposal, and noted a local Newspaper is strugg­ling to get advertising. He said he would not like to see the station take away from privately run busi­nesses.

Rushton said Erin Radio receives no municipal funding, and uses volunteers and Trilli­um funding, as well as job cre­ation funds to operate. Further, the station could act as a stimulus and allow local busi­nesses to do more local ad­vertising, not decrease it. He noted at least one business advertises out of town because it likes radio and there is no local station.

Foster asked, “Do you ex­pect council to fund the operat­ing costs.

“Rushton said, “No,” but add­ed that as a non-profit operation, it might ask council for grants at some point.

Foster asked where the station would get the $100,000 operation costs. Rushton said Erin got a three-year Trillium grant that allowed it to build up its funding. He added to Foster that Erin’s station receives about $35,000 to $40,000 per year in advertising.

“They’re doing quite well.”

Council then supported the grant request for the group.