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Auditorium given $1.25 million boost

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“We’re ecstatic.”

That’s how John Dutton, chairman of the local community auditorium committee, reacted to yesterday’s announcement that the province will give $1.25 million to the project.

Dutton said he had heard on the Victoria Day long weekend that funding was coming down from the province but was hesitant to get his hopes up until it was official.

It became official Monday when Joe Spina, parliamentary assistant to Northern Development and Mines minister Chris Hodgson, flew into town to announce Northern Ontario Heritage Fund dollars for the auditorium.

That means the $2.5-million project will go ahead as originally designed, Mayor Glenn Witherspoon pledged yesterday, without having to trim seats, catwalks, or other items.

“We are indeed very happy to receive this news,” the mayor said, stressing all the district’s residents would benefit from this.

“We believe this new auditorium will attract an even larger number of tourists to the community,” Spina added, explaining it would complement other tourism developments such as the new waterfront here, the Historic Boundary Waterway, Kitchen Creek Golf Course, and Manitou Mounds.

Now the town will be taking another look at its own funding arrangement. With the auditorium committee pledging $570,000 ($540,000 of that is already raised), the town debentured $900,000 for the project and committed another $900,000 from reserves.

With the town’s contribution knocked down to $750,000, CAO Bill Naturkach said the budgeted amounts would be revisited. But he stressed that wouldn’t happen until the town received details on how the grant dollars would flow.

“It’s not unusual for them to flow [grant dollars] over the lifetime of the construction,” he noted.

Mayor Witherspoon added the town didn’t have to use the debentured amount on the auditorium. Instead, he noted those dollars, which already have been reinvested, could be used for other local projects such as roads.

“We’re still committed to raise additional funds,” Dutton added. “[But] we’ve raised most of what we need to raise.”

The 434-seat auditorium will be the site of some 150 community, school, performing arts, and sports events each year. But Dutton didn’t know when the auditorium would be completed, noting it originally was to be finished by January, 1999.

“I’d like to be able to use it next year for a musical but I’m not holding my breath,” he noted, adding it would probably be done by next summer.

In related news, the town will send its application to the Heritage Fund for the rink project after it has more details on how that project will proceed.

Naturkach said they would know more after next Monday’s meeting.

Meanwhile, Spina denied the government was handing out dollars because it was “electioneering,” noting the next provincial election was “a long way away.”

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