City council got hung up on a procedural nail and turned down a $500,000 request from the Cornwall Community Hospital Foundation Monday night.
A report provided to city councillors spelled out a recommendation that would have seen the city use interest created by the $25-million Progress Fund to fund the request.
But the city has a 2008 bylaw that says Progress Fund interest can only be used on municipally-owned facilities. Two thirds of councillors had to vote in favour of suspending that bylaw, and only four votes could be found Monday night to do so.
The move came as a shock to members of the foundation and the To Your Health campaign that is raising funds to place an MRI and digital urology table at the hospital.
“They needed to make a choice,” said Roy Perkins, co-chair of the fundraising campaign. “It’s disappointing. But we’re going to keep working on the campaign.”
While council didn’t specifically turn down the funding request and instead only voted against suspending a bylaw to use the Progress Fund, many councillors spoke out against spending the money at all.
“The voices around the table were pretty clear,” said Perkins.
Coun. Denis Thibault said budget commitments looming in 2013 will make it tough to support these kind of projects.
“We have a long list of where the local taxpayers dollars are going to go,” he said. “The timing of bringing this issue forward is totally wrong.
“I realize that there’s a major push to get additional donations – but if you look at whether the city has done its share, I think we have.”
The city has provided the hospital with $8.5 million in donations over the last 10 years.
Coun. Denis Carr was of a similar mind as Thibault.
“We can’t be all things to everyone,” he said. “We’ve got people knocking on our doors…for all kinds of things. I don’t think this particular project should leap over top of them.”
Coun. Bernadette Clement was disappointed with council’s vote.
“I don’t believe that we should leave things as is. I want to know for sure we can hold more discussions,” she said. “Potentially this could come back…with a different funding mechanism.”
Mayor Bob Kilger suggested work will be done behind the scenes to determine what more can be done with regard to the hospital request.
In the meantime, Perkins suggested the campaign will be in a position in a couple of weeks to announce it has reached its $3.5-million funding goal.