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$10 million bid at final stage
By John Intini
Only one thing stands in the way of Western and a $10 million grant from the City of London, but it may not be as easy as a question from Regis Philbin.
City controller Russ Monteith confirmed that at meeting last Thursday, London's Board of Control approved the university's request to the City for funding. Monteith said the final decision to grant the university $1 million a year for 10 years, starting in 2001, is now in the hands of the city councillors. The verdict will be made at a special budget meeting Dec. 14, he added.
Ted Garrard, Western's VP-external, said the funding was vital to helping the university deal with the double cohort expected in 2003. The money would be primarily used to update facilities to handle the influx of students.
Garrard said the decision at last week's meeting was very promising. "I believe we have firm support from the members of the Board of Control. I think they understand why this funding is so important," he said. "However, we certainly have more convincing to do to get all of [the councillors'] support.
"Some [councillors] think the university only affects the North end of London, which we have had to show is clearly not correct."
Garrard said the upcoming enrollment explosion, which would add 4,000 students to the usual first-year enrollment, as well as 500 more faculty to London, could materialize in another $200 million per year in economic growth.
Monteith said the university's initiative was a positive one for the city. "The university is a major contributor to the economic growth of this city," he said, citing teaching hospitals and research institutes as two examples of how the university impacts the London economy.
Ward 7 councillor for the City of London, Gordon Hume, said he was very frank with Western president Paul Davenport at last week's meeting and in subsequent meetings since the decision. "I asked some tough questions and he gave some responsible answers."
Hume said one of his greatest concerns was insuring the university's adult learning centre be located in the downtown core.
Davenport, who said he was pleased with both the discussion and outcome of the Board of Control meeting, said Western is already taking strides to fulfill this request. "Our continuing studies department has already been looking for property downtown," he said, adding the department has narrowed the choices down to two locations.
Hume added he will also propose an amendment at next week's meeting, which would call for an economic study to be performed in 2003. He said the study would assess how the money had been allocated and where it provided the greatest benefits.
"It would provide an important info piece for the City of London. It would be like a report card to review the economic process," Hume said. Davenport added he was in full support of this request as well.
"I have a higher degree of comfort now than I did a couple of months ago," Hume said, adding since a number of issues have been clarified, the request has a good chance of passing through council.