By: Mike Anderson
Although most not-for-profit AGMs are usually sedate affairs, the Georgina Community Health Care Council AGM was anything but.
Held at the LINK in Sutton on November 19, it was supposed to be an opportunity for the organization to present its six new board members, recruited by Jim Beechey, the council’s chair.
But frustration over a nearly two-year delay in rebuilding the the former Burrows medical clinic on Dalton Rd — which burned down in January, 2018 — boiled over with some residents demanding Mr. Beechey resign.
Earlier this fall, Mr. Beechey announced that the rebuild — intended to provide a permanent home for the Georgina Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic (GNPLC) — would not be going forward due to a lack of funds — $500,000 was needed to bridge the gap between the fire insurance payout and the cost of building a new facility.
When asked about the lack of progress in obtaining a mortgage, Mr Beechey responded that the council’s non-profit status made it difficult to obtain conventional financing.
But he also admitted that while he had discussions with mortgage brokers, he hadn’t actually applied for a mortgage, nor had he approached the province or the town for financing — provoking several residents to openly challenge his leadership.
“If you had followed your mandate properly we’d be talking about what the building looked like and how soon it would be built,” said Iain Donnell, a local lawyer.
“Enough talking. Let’s get it together. Build a building!” shouted another resident. “You should be proud that Georgina has a nurse practitioner clinic. Let’s expand what we have.”
Mr. Beechey also seemed perplexed when one resident suggested setting up a GofundMe page to get the community involved.
“GofundMe raises millions for common causes. I’m surprised that hasn’t been discussed. It’s 2019, that’s how it’s done now,” said Malcolm Noble. “I really feel that you haven’t done much of a job. I think you should resign and get some other people on that take these ideas and move forward.“
Other residents pointed out that the rent from GNPLC — $80,000 per year — would more than cover the interest charges for a private mortgage.
Mr. Beechey acknowledged that a number of private investors had come forward with proposals, and that GCHCC was considering those offers. However, he said it was premature to discuss the details at this time.
But, after pointed questioning from Heather Burrows Davies, daughter of the late Dr. George Burrows, Sandy Young, a current board member, disclosed that Pat Burrows, a new board member, had earlier approached GCHCC and offered a short-term loan.
However, that offer was rejected as the terms were not acceptable – the principal would have to be paid back in five years, according to Mr. Beechey, who was looking to amortize the $500,000 over at least 15 years.
While this withering assault was at times uncomfortable to watch; ironically, it generated some good ideas and positive outcomes.
The most promising solution was offered by Rob Grossi, deputy mayor, who suggested the new board approach the town for a loan or ask the town to co-sign on a mortgage.
The new board also approved the addition of two new members, a representative from GNPLC, in an advisory capacity, and, as suggested by the mayor, another representative from the town council, or town staff — Frank Sebo, councillor for ward 4, currently has a seat on the board.
The new board also agreed to provide an update to GNPLC within 30 days, and to hold another public meeting.
In an interview with The Post, Mr. Beechey says that he has been asked to stay on the board; however, technically he was no longer chair.
“By default, after the new board were elected last night, I was no longer chair and it’s up to the new board to select the chair,” says Mr. Beechey, who feels he was treated unfairly by some residents and members of his own board.
“People get upset we’re taking too long, but prudence sometimes looks like you’re fearful of going ahead, and due diligence is looked as unnecessary delay. But to me those are both very important parts of what a board needs to do.”
Despite the rancour, Mr. Beechey says the board is committed to putting up a building on the Dalton Rd site, but he’s concerned that the 30 day time frame may be too tight.
“I don’t know exactly what we’re going to be able to bring back in 30 days other than the board will vote that we’re definitely moving forward on the project and assign some tasks,” he says.
“We’ll also strike a committee to look at other financing options, including going back to the town to see if it will come forward with funding. That was a pretty bold statement made by Deputy Mayor Grossi. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the town do a deal like that, but anything is possible.”