mudtown presser

- Hub staff

City Manager Wayne Ritchie was adamant in his press conference Wednesday. All appropriate processes were followed, he said, in negotiating a lease for the heritage CPR Station with Mudtown Brewery and Restaurant, and no city staff member's investment in the business represented a conflict of interest.

Ritchie read prepared comments about the process, the strategic goals met for the CPR site, and his utmost confidence in all his staff and then took questions from the media. He reiterated that the business met all the strategic goals set for the CPR site. Some of the fifty or so members of the public followed up with questions.

They repeated that no one was questioning the merits of the restaurant or its positive impact on the waterfront, but former Councillor John Christie and others asked about the public perception of a conflict. Mr. Ritchie said the letter of the law was followed, and the City received legal advice that none of the investments by city staff represented a conflict under the Municipal Act.

Mr. Ritchie insisted that noone had shown credible interest in the CPR station since the City bought it in 2010. When asked why the City's willingness to invest over half a million dollars in the property was not included in the most recent Request for Proposals (RFP), he said that the specific amount would be dependent on the tenant, and what was required to make the building suitable. At one point, he said, they were not sure the derelict building could be made habitable.

When asked why he referred to Deputy Mayoral candidate Paul Patille's questions about the cost of renovations at the CPR station as “smelling of a witch hunt”, Ritchie said the choice of words and their inclusion in an email to Mr. Patille were “no mistake”.

Kris Heathers, owner of Elsie's Diner, and Pam Maclay whose has owned Jazzmyn's in downtown Owen Sound for two decades, asked about the on-going promotion of Mudtown by the City at no cost to the business, and the plans for promotions going forward. Brent Fisher, Manager of Community Development and Marketing, said staff decisions were made to promote the harbour and downtown, and said they encourage businesses to get more involved in events. The Hub's question about whether staff with ownership shares will continue to participate in those decisions was not answered.

Mr. Kloeze, representing the family-owned Mudtown, spoke emotionally about the sacrifices of time, work and money that his daughter and wife had put into the restaurant and brewery. He also praised Ms. Coulter for her vision for the heritage property. He spoke of the employment, local food purchases and renewal of the harbour that Mudtown provided.

Pam Coulter, Director of Community Services, said she had not planned to speak, but read from a prepared statement about the open process of negotiating the lease in 2017, and her son's desire to invest in Mudtown Brewery after visiting it shortly after it opened.

Councillor Jim McManaman, who is not seeking re-election, re-iterated the openness of the process, the value of the City's investment in the CPR building, and his understanding that there was no conflict in anyone's investment in the business.

Councillor Brian O'Leary, who owns Mudtown shares, did not speak at the meeting but has offered Owen Sound Hub a written statement which we will publish in full when we receive it.

No mention was made of Mr. O'Leary's son , Andy O'Leary, Owen Sound Facilities Booking Co-ordinator, who owns one share in Mudtown Brewery.


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