City asks Downtown Association to pay long-outstanding debt

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City accuses trade association of never paying its $10,000 share of cost to bring tourism and branding consultant Roger Brooks to the Sault

A decision that nearly split the Downtown Association four years ago came back on Wednesday night to haunt the company group’s board of directors.

On February 27, 2018, association members voted at their annual meeting to approve a budget that included an expense to bring tourism and branding consultant Roger Brooks to the Sault.

One of Brooks’ later recommendations led to the construction of the $7 million downtown plaza currently under construction.

The Downtown Association was supposed to share the cost of Brooks’ visit with the city, with help from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC).

Now the city claims the association never paid the $10,000 it promised as its part of the deal to get Brooks’ advice on rebuilding our downtown.

At Wednesday night’s meeting, executive director Salvatore Marchese confirmed that the expenses were approved by the Downtown Association’s board of directors in 2018.

“We will need a motion to authorize the expenditures as they are not in the budget this year,” Marchese said.

Board Chair Kristi Cstaro has declared a conflict of interest because she is employed by the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry, helping to administer the grant programs for the NOHFC.

Com. Lisa Vezeau-Allen then took over to chair the meeting.

The other three board members present expressed concern that none of them had been to the 2018 annual meeting and therefore had little knowledge of the matter.

It was therefore decided to postpone the request for payment of the City’s debt to a future meeting.

The vote to bring Roger Brooks to the Sault deeply divided the Downtown Association’s annual meeting on February 27, 2018.

Grace Tridico opposed the expense and brought a group of supporters to the meeting to try to block it.

Bryan Hayes, then president of the Downtown Association, and Rory Ring, general manager of the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce, had both warned Tridico ahead of the meeting that it would be inappropriate for her to challenge the decision at the annual meeting as she was a director and the board had already voted on the matter.

But Tridico stood firm and spoke out against hiring Brooks after a downtown business owner demanded to hear his side of the issue.

The annual meeting voted 11-8 authorizing payment to the consultant.

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