The municipalities of Russell and Clarence-Rockland were given a Canada Day gift by the rest of the United Counties of Prescott and Russell.
At the latest council meeting, the majority of mayors approved transferring each municipality a former ambulance station for the grand sum of one dollar.
The Russell station was appraised at $325,000 while the one in Clarence-Rockland is valued at $455,000. Each municipality also has a new bigger station in the works to answer increased demand in that end of Prescott-Russell.
Asked about council’s decision, both Stéphane Parisien, UCPR CAO, and Michel Chrétien, director of emergency service, said it was a “political decision” that didn’t come from administration.
In the approved resolution, there is no way to guarantee the municipalities don’t simply sell their new buildings. This wasn’t lost on Alfred-Plantagenet Mayor Fernand Dicaire who suggested adding a minimum time each had to own the building before putting it on the market. When that was refused, Parisien suggested adding a buy-back clause that saw the buildings return to the UCPR for the same amount if neither town needed them after five years.
Clarence-Rockland Mayor Guy Desjardins refused that too and reassured council and staff, “We need the space.”
Ultimately, the resolution stayed the same with Dicaire as the only mayor in opposition.
Russell Mayor Pierre Leroux said his council was looking at different options for the nearly 3,000-square-foot space in Embrun.
The province’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care reimburses half of the emergency department’s operations expenses. Now with the sale of each station at only a dollar, Julie Ménard-Brault says it’s unclear how, if at all, the UCPR will be reimbursed for the sale of the buildings.
Since the UCPR is essentially giving the buildings away, that’s logged as a loss equal to each building’s value. The ministry could see this as an expense and reimburses half of that loss or it acts as though the buildings were sold at market value, which would then be added to the books as revenue, therefore clawing back part of the funding. In this case, each municipality would pay for the lost funding. If this were to happen, Ménard-Brault, says Clarence-Rockland would be paying back about $55,000 at the most, still much less than the $455,000 value of the station. The ministry could also decide to simply not reimburse any portion of the sale at all.
Ménard-Brault still has no official answer on how the ministry will treat the sale.