Money to renovate Etobicoke community centre is ready and waiting... and waiting and waiting

A popular but decrepit community health centre in south Etobicoke is all set for a retrofit but millions of dollars in pre-approved provincial grants are tied up in red tape at city hall, according to centre's executive director.

$10-million grant hinges on city action, but the centre has been waiting for 2 years

The LAMP community health centre, situated in a century-old building in south Etobicoke, is in dire need of repairs. The executive director says the money is there, but says city hall red tape is holding it up. (Mike Smee )

A popular but decrepit community health centre in south Etobicoke is all set for a retrofit but millions of dollars in pre-approved provincial grants have been tied up in red tape at city hall in a process that's taken about two years, according to the centre's executive director.

"Just about every system is breaking down," Russ Ford, the executive director of the Lakeshore Area Multiservice project, or LAMP, told CBC Toronto Tuesday. "The H-VAC, the heating system. It's cold in the winters, hot in the summer. The actual structure of the building is doubtful.

"Were trying to be a modern healthcare facility but we've got a long way to go because of the restrictions of this building, which is well over 100 years old."

Russ Ford, LAMP's executive director, says he's been waiting about two years for renovation grants promised by Queen's Park to clear municipal hurdles. (Lisa Xing)

LAMP has about 9,000 clients, Ford said. People receive dental care, medical check-ups, drug counselling, and 
nutrition advice, among other services.

Shirleyanne Sanders, who has trouble climbing stairs, said she's been using LAMP for about 15 years. "I go downstairs for the adult drop-in, I come to the dentist, I go to the foot clinic. 

"We have to have a working elevator," she said Tuesday. This is ridiculous."

The province has approved in principal about $10-million in grants to cover everything from planners and architects to the actual construction work on the century-old building, Ford told CBC Toronto.

But that money hinges on LAMP getting a new lease, according to Liberal MPP Peter Milczyn, who represents the area at Queen's Park.

Shirleyanne Sanders has been using LAMP's services for about 15 years and finds them indispensable. But she'd be happier if the building had a working elevator. (Lisa Xing)

"Once we get the green light from LAMP that they have all their municipal approvals, then we can work with them to provide the capital funding to build new facilities."

But according to a letter from an official with the city's real estate services department, obtained by CBC Toronto through an Access to Information Act request, a new lease won't be offered to LAMP until the city has declared the property surplus.

'Proceeding as it should'

City spokesperson Natalie Hinds Fitzsimmons said in an email to CBC Toronto on Tuesday that "from real estate services' perspective, the process is proceeding as it should at this point."

Milczyn, who's a former Toronto city councillor, said he's familiar with the problems LAMP has had getting the green light for the new lease, but he said "it doesn't sound unusual, unfortunately. Bureaucracy doesn't necessarily feel any sense of urgency."

He also said the local councillor for the area, Mark Grimes, "could light a fire under real estate services to get it done."

Grimes supports LAMP

According to the emails obtained by CBC Toronto through the Freedom of Information Act, there have been repeated exchanges between city staff and Grimes, asking him to okay the process, exchanges which cover about 18 months.

And although he would not speak with CBC Toronto on air, Grimes said in an email that he supports LAMP's bid for a new lease.

"The information was circulated to me, as per the policy, and I understand City staff are working toward finalizing the declaration."