City to Peter Panetta and Underground Gym – Keep looking!

Photo by Jody Loos - Facebook
Photo by Jody Loos - Facebook

THUNDER BAY – Peter Panetta and the youth at the Underground Gym will have to keep looking for a new home. Following a report from City Administration that was presented in closed session last night, City Council has, subject to ratification, approved the sale of a Hardisty Street property to a private business.

The property, located at 201 Hardisty Street, was advertised for sale in October 2019 and an offer was conditionally agreed upon in early December. The report recommended the City sell the property that consists of half of the building on the north/west corner of Hardisty and Leith Streets. It was acquired by the City due to outstanding taxes.

“At the time a request was received to donate the property, the City had already entered into a conditional agreement to sell the building to the owner of the other half of the building,” said Mayor Bill Mauro. “The City has established programs in place in an effort to provide fair and equitable assistance to the many not-for-profit and charitable groups that seek real estate assistance from the City.”

The move comes a few weeks after the city received a request from Mr. Panetta on behalf of the Underground Gym seeking the building. Since the fire that destroyed the Underground Gym on Simpson Street, Panetta has had to scale back programming and is working the groups to put together programming for younger youth from the Underground Gym’s van.

Peter Panetta says, “I read Mayor Bill Mauro’s comments, and I assure you that he has twisted the facts to justify their decision. I just want the citizens of Thunder Bay to know where their priorities “lie”. I do not want to argue over this, they have made their decision and now I will move on to pursue other options. I will continue to take care of the children between the ages of 4 to 12 from our bus.  But who is taking care of our vulnerable teens now that they do not have a place to go?”

Posting on Facebook, Panetta writes, “As well as the former Thunder Bay Youth Centre that was sponsored by the City about 10 years ago at $100,000 a year and failed within 3 years. Ask your City Council to give you the answers. There is so much more. I really do not want to get pulled into a media war with them again like we did many years ago but the public should be aware of their priorities.”

It also comes a few weeks after Mayor Mauro and City Council refused to defer a vote to demolish Dease Pool following a letter from Chief Donny Morris of KI First Nation.

The following programs are currently available by the City:

1. The Land Related Financial Assistance policy provides a 25% discount to a maximum of $25,000 to all qualified organizations.
2. The Community Partnership Fund. Groups may make an application to the Fund for assistance in the form of cash or land contributions to assist with major capital projects with a total cost exceeding $100,000. The maximum grant is 25% of the eligible capital cost of the project.

“Both of these programs are available to the Underground Gym just as any qualifying organization,” added Mayor Mauro.

The property has various complicating factors including building code issues and environmental approvals related to changing use, and liens on the building that are settled out of the proceeds when the City sells a vested tax sale property.

“The programs we offer to charitable organizations are well utilized at an expense to the City of approximately $150,000 annually,” said Joel DePeuter, Manager – Realty Services. “Every year the City assists a dozen or more organizations by way of cash grants, land sale discounts and discounted rent. The list of agencies that the City has helped continues to grow.”