Council here will hold the line, for now, on rent for the Clifford Medical Centre in a new five-year lease on the building.
The facility was constructed in 2006 in a building owned by the County of Wellington and sub-leased by the Town of Minto to the Minto-Mapleton Family Health Team and local health providers.
“The facility was a success from the start and has become a vital part of the local health care system,” stated treasurer Gordon Duff in a report to Minto council on Dec. 15. The current lease was set to expire on Dec. 31.
Duff told council that “due to cutbacks” the health team was unable to absorb any increase in the amount of rent for the term of the next lease.
The health team currently pays $20,700 annually plus a share of operating expenses. Each doctor operating out of the clinic pays $900 per year. While three doctors previously operated the clinic, only one now uses the Clifford location.
Duff noted normal practise is to include an increase in rents to reflect higher property costs at renewal, but the town “has been an advocate of local health care and has shown this support by direct contributions to health care provider recruitment efforts and by maintaining the Clifford facility to a high standard.”
Pointing out the present rental income is sufficient to cover the leasing and maintenance costs “on an approximate break-even basis,” Duff recommended keeping the rent the same. “It’s providing a good service and we’d certainly like to keep them there,” he said.
“What is the likelihood of them moving if we were to increase the rent by a not substantial amount?” wondered councillor Jean Anderson.
“I don’t think this is a ploy,” said Mayor George Bridge, adding the town has always had a good relationship with the family health team. “I think we have to play ball a little bit.”
Bridge said the fact Wellington County handles most of the repairs and maintenance on the building, also the local library branch, helps make a rent freeze more affordable.
“Clifford is starting to boom and one of the big selling factors … is the fact we’ve got a library, we’ve got a health centre, we’ve got recreation – we’ve go the things that we need to make that a progressive town still,” said Bridge.
Councillor Judy Dirksen asked if the rent would be revisited annually, but Duff advised the intent was for a five-year lease with no increase.
“Its seems to me then that the risk is entirely on us,” said Dirksen.
CAO Bill White suggested the town could agree to a five-year lease, with the issue of rent to be revisited annually, that way, “if the county puts in a bit of an increase or whatever we’ll go back and talk to them.”
Council agreed to White’s suggestion.