MORRISBURG – “So here we go again,” said John Ross, Iroquois resident and founder of Ross Video, as he stepped to the podium Tues., Oct. 2 taking council members on a thoughtful 20-minute ride outlining his vision for a new airport and campground building.
The plan, as it stood, had been sputtering down the runway for the better part of the past year, but with Ross’ deputation, and a surprising hefty donation of $200,000, Iroquois could get a new facility that would not only satisfy the needs and wants of multiple groups and also meet modern campground standards.
Ross began his presentation with a flashback to more than four decades earlier, when at the invitation of Reeve Lloyd Davis, he showed the council in Iroquois how a series of ditches would create a park and an airport for that community.
“They watched with great interest and said, ‘you can’t do that… The taxpayers will run you out of town and us too. They don’t want their taxpayer money spent on that sort of thing.’ I said, ‘I’m not here to ask you for money. I’m here for permission to do this.’ They had a vote, they went ahead and you have an airport and you have a dry park. I’m here under the same circumstances today,” said Ross.
He then went on to give a history lesson pointing out that the airport and the associated building came first and that the campground then grew up around it.
He also lamented the fact that very little has been done to the campground in recent years to improve it let alone maintain it and why a separate fund for the campground hadn’t been established.
“If a campground breaks even and is a great asset for the municipality, let it break even. Put the money into a campground fund. If that would have been done over the last dozen years or so, you would have the building that I have proposed,” he said. “The campsite is being run on a Mickey Mouse rather than a professional basis.”
Mayor Evonne Delegarde did address that issue after his deputation.
“The last two years we’ve put net revenue into a separate account for the campsite,” she said.
Ross also pointed out that after researching campsites across Canada, New York State and even New Zealand, the facilities proposed in the municipal design simply don’t meet modern standards.
“It’s very strange. The number of toilets a campground building needs seems to [depend] on how many people you have in the campground not where the campground is. Seems that a certain number of people need a certain number of toilets,” he said. “I think the planning is short sighted and budget based.”
The annual Fly-In Breakfast, rumoured to be in its final year, will return as Ross confirmed that two interested groups have come forward to continue the event.
“But not without a building to hold it in,” said Ross, adding that the airport is what “makes Iroquois different from the other communities.”
It was after much deliberation that Ross then approached EVB Engineering who was awarded the contract to oversee the design, bid and build of the new Iroquois campground building.
The firm suggested he combine his design with that of the municipality and even provided him with a quote of an additional $17,239 for their work on a more complex building.
“I will write a cheque to you immediately so that work can proceed,” said Ross.
Not only that, but he was also willing to pay for an expanded building and a full kitchen.
With the set up complete, Ross then delivered the crescendo to an attentive council and full gallery – mouths agape with surprise.
“Your budget therefore, I believe is $350,000. Is that correct overall? It’s now $550,000. I’m donating $200,000,” stated Ross before distributing a design for a more than 2,400 square foot “John D. Ross airport and campground building.”
The new plan would include a full kitchen, meet campground standards and even allow the municipality to potentially add 10 sites in the future.
This left council in an interesting position having awarded a contract to EVB with no building plan yet produced based on their specifications.
“It’s an ambitious project and quite a generous donation on your behalf. I would like to have seen what our consultant and engineer would have proposed before this,” said Councillor Archie Mellan.
Councillor Marc St. Pierre was concerned about the long-term operating costs.
“Look around at some of the stuff that’s been created, within a handful of years it falls apart because there’s no money to maintain and operate it,” he said.
Delegarde suggested that the lawn bowling and airport group who use the facilities would maintain them.
“I would think if the kitchen is there for the lawn bowling club and the airport that they would probably maintain and keep that up, as well as equip it,” she said.
Council directed CAO Shannon Geraghty and director of recreation and facilities Ben Macpherson to look over the report and discuss it with the municipality’s lawyers as well as EVB before moving forward.
Asked why he would make such a large investment in time and money, Ross replied,
“I know more about that park than almost anybody in the area so I might as well continue.”