Councillors Tom Jackson and Jason Farr, Directors of the Hamilton Waterfront Trust appeared to put a face on it, suggesting that there is no reason for concern with the release of The Hamilton Waterfront Trust's 2011 financials. Jackson continued his mantra, suggesting that people ought to ignore "“the small cabal of naysayers in town” and focus on the social, economic and recreational advantages the trust has created." Farr suggested that the Trust is heading in the right direction.
But with the release of the financials (click here to see them), a different picture emerges. A deficit of close to $500,000.00 has been recorded for 2011. Williams Fresh Cafe Coffee House, for example, recorded a loss of $33,010.00 in 2011, after recording a profit the year prior of $37,969.00. Chairman Bob Charters said to the Spec, "There is no real, solid explanation for this, other than it just didn’t perform,”
In 2010, the Trust lost $893,000.00. You may recall that Mayor Bratina expressed concern over the Hamilton Waterfront Trusts' financials, in the past. At that time, he was assured by Charters that the Trust's financials would approach or be at a break even point for 2011. The Mayor was also chastised by his peers for having raised what has proven to be be a legitimate question on behalf of Hamilton taxpayers.
The news of the Trust's 2011 financials and the poor overall performance they represent, comes on the heels of some serious allegations made by the Bay Observer on the funds' operations. While remaining non judgmental, questions that The Hamiltonian posed to The Hamilton Waterfront Trust directly to its Executive Director Werner Plessel and through Clrs. Jackson and Farr, remain largely unanswered.
Some citizens are calling for a forensic audit by way of a delegation that is to come to council, as well as demanding answers to outstanding questions raised.
Whether those efforts and the Bay Observer's allegations ultimately uncover additional cause for concern, is a potential add-on to the real losses Hamiltonians continue to learn about and bear year after year. Some may argue that the Trust has made some wonderful progress on the Waterfront and that its roller/ice rink, cafe, restaurants in the works etc., speak volumes of the achievements. Others will argue however that achievements and sound financials, are not mutually exclusive and, in fact, should go hand in hand.
Leading us to ask the question: Should we continue to en-trust the Trust to turn the situation around, or should we end the Hamilton Waterfront Trust and either bring it into city operations as a regular department, or otherwise modify its stewardship? Your thoughts?