| Feb 04, 2010

Council hears from Frank Roy on 1 Metre Initiative

Frank Roy made a short presentation recapping his One Metre Initiative proposal for the largest telescope in Canada, which he hopes to build under the dark skies of Mallory Hill, on Buckshot Lake Road near the historic village of Vennachar.

Tourism is slated to provide 90% of the revenue needed to build and keep the proposed world-class observatory operating, while use of the digitally controlled telescope from the astronomy programs at the University of Western Ontario, Queen's University, the University of Montreal and others would cover the remaining 10%.

Roy is seeking $5 million in investment, with which he says he can build the one metre telescope, a second 0.7 metre telescope that will also be remotely controlled, and used by amateur astronomers and others, as well as a smaller telescope and observation deck for use by tourists who travel to the site. A visitors’ centre is also planned, which is slated to include material about the telescope, high definition images captured by it, and other programming.

Roy said he only needs about $1.25 in up-front investment, and the rest can be covered off in loans from the Business Development Bank of Canada.

Ken Hook from the Land O'Lakes Tourist Association also attended the presentation at the invitation of Mayor Ron Maguire. “I am a believer that if you build it they will come,” Hook said. “If this gets built it would change the marketing that our association does. Until now we have been focusing on the sporting market - fishing and camping and outdoor recreation, but this would open up our marketing. I think it's a great concept. It’s something we would promote.”

Frank Roy is seeking a contribution from the township towards a $25,000 market feasibility study that needs to be done in order for him to attract investors.

“I'm bullish about this. I think you know that,” Mayor Maguire said to Frank Roy.

Deputy Mayor Jim Beam has expressed concerns about the project. “I don't see this as a public/private partnership. I see this as private investors asking ratepayers to subsidize their project. I fully support this, but I'm not sure where it is going,” Beam said.

“How much money are you putting in?” he asked Roy.

“About $25,000 and a lot of sweat equity,” Roy said.

“How much have you got committed to this from investors?” Beam further asked.

Roy said that the feasibility study was necessary before investors would commit. “But I have been talking to several investors from the United States who are interested, extremely interested,” he said.

Frank Roy said he will send council a copy of the 70-page business plan he has prepared.

“We are just starting our budget deliberations,” said Mayor Ron Maguire. “We might want to make a donation towards a market study. You've acquitted yourself well to the questions we've brought to you.”

COST OF CAMPING PERMITS FROZEN - A routine request by Recreation Co-ordinator Cory Klatt to open up the Frontenac Parklands online reservation system for the season got caught up in the township’s budget debate.

“Given that council agreed to increase wages by 3% this year at our budget meeting, I think we should raise all fees 3%,” said Jim Beam.

“It think that's a wonderful point,” said Cory Klatt. “The only thing is that I think people are just now getting used to paying the fees, and use has been going up. I would be concerned about raising fees at this point. I think we are still in just too delicate a stage to be increasing fees.”

Councilor Lonnie Watkins said, “Let's leave it as is, raise the number of users, and then see what happens in a year or so.”

Councilor Bob Olmstead agreed with Jim Beam's logic.

“If wages are up, service fees should go up,” he said.

In the end the program was renewed with no fee increase.

MAGUIRE OPPOSES LOCAL MONEY FOR PINE MEADOW - Mayor Maguire reported that his motion at Frontenac County Council in favour of a contribution of $25,000 per year for ten years towards upgrades at the Pine Meadow Nursing Home had been defeated.

“Some of the reasons were incredulous to me, but there you have it,” he said. “I was particularly disappointed by the stance taken by Mayor Gutowski this time around, but it's been taffy pull all along at the county anyway.”

Maguire took note of a suggestion that the local municipalities might consider supporting nursing homes. “I hate that,” he said, “Social services are a county responsibility. If we start paying those costs at the township level we would put ourselves into a pretty tight corner. Council might want to act differently, which is fine, but that's my position.”

BEAM WANTS MORE HOURS FOR OMPAH LIBRARY: Deputy Mayor Jim Beam said he had been contacted by people in Ompah who were upset that when the Plevna library re-opens, the hours at the Ompah library will be reduced to four a week, less than the six hours per week it had been open when the Plevna library was last in operation.

“I would like it on record that Ompah should be open for at least six hours a week,” Beam said.


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