City, hospital facility owner discussing potential partnership

City, hospital facility owner discussing potential partnership
Daniel Gauthier

CORNWALL, Ontario – Discussions are taking place between city hall and the owner of the former general hospital site in Cornwall about potential partnerships to help erect a new clinic and wellness centre downtown.

During a budget committee meeting Friday councillors heard that the owners of the facility are interested in partnering with the city to help fill the building with doctors and clinicians to create a health-care facility at the corner of Marlborough and Second streets.

But just how such a partnership will evolve, or be created at all, is a matter of debate.

Other communities have partnered with the private sector to help finance construction efforts and implement social programming to benefit residents – some spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process.

City hall appears to be a bit leery of fueling the project with tax dollars, at least at this point.

“If the city contributes, there has to be some kind of return,” said Mayor Leslie O’Shaughnessy, who has had discussions with the new property owner, Dan Gauthier and Green Soldiers Inc.

O’Shaughnessy found support from Coun. Mark MacDonald.

“I don’t how the best way to approach it would be. The issues are complex. He’s got a vision – a broad vision,” said MacDonald. “It’s like a puzzle and when he drops it it’s a whole bunch of pieces.

“They’re in the business to make money, but we’re looking at putting in some programs to benefit the city in a social sense.”

The plan is to turn the hospital building into a health-care and wellness centre. It won’t come cheap – Gauthier estimates it could cost as much as $1 million to renovate the $2-million hospital building into a facility that could someday include services like acupuncture, day-time surgeries, physiotherapy and a long-term care component, to name a few.

“He needs to advance his plan a little bit, and he needs to (advise us) where his plan will integrate with some of the things we do,” said planning manager Stephen Alexander. “There’s so much space it’s not all going to be for the provision of city services.”

Coun. Elaine MacDonald suggested it’s early days yet.

“We’re a few steps away from putting our money into anything,” she said.

Coun. Brock Frost believes Gauthier needs to find an anchor tenant for the facility before more work from the city can be, or should be, accomplished.

Economic development manager Marc Boileau suggested there won’t be any blank cheques written.

“I’m not suggesting the city is going to want to donate money to this. The city might lend some money…and it will be entirely returned,” he said, adding there are similar, smaller project underway as well. “Mr. Gauthier is not the first person who has approached me about some property.”

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