Provincial government says "no pressure" on HWDSB to rush HQ decision

The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board is moving forward with it’s plans to move out of the downtown core. This despite an offer from the City of Hamilton to assist them to relocate into the old Cannon Knitting Mill.

The HWDSB Trustees surprised everyone by abruptly pulling the pull on the downtown task force twenty days early. Just after midnight Wednesday, they voted to withdrawal from the task force which was mandated to find a location for the Board’s administrative functions downtown. The decision only came hours after city councillors Jason Farr and Brian McHattie presented a city offer for relocation to the Cannon Knitting Mill.

Both Farr and McHattie left the HWDSB building shortly after 7 p.m. Tuesday evening with smiles on their faces. There was no indication the Trustees would reject the offer and leave the process. Trustees moved in-camera shortly after 11 p.m. Tuesday night and at about 12:40 a.m. Wednesday, voted to disband the task force and confirm their plans to move to Crestwood.

The HWDSB statements about leaving the process early indicate they felt pressure from the provincial Ministry of Education.

“NO pressure”: McMeekin

Local cabinet minister Ted McMeekin says, in an email interview, he spoke with the minister of education Laurel Broten yesterday afternoon and again this morning. McMeekin says there was “NO pressure exerted on HWDSB” to rush their decision and that the education minister confirmed that ministry staff did not pressure HWDSB staff.

Knitting Mills lower cost: City

“Our preliminary costing showed that the capital costs were lower than the Crestwood site,” says McHattie in reference to the Knitting Mills site.

The costing was still underway and the final package was due to be presented by June 18th. The only missing component in the offer – 480 parking spots the Board demanded.

What’s next?

Officially, the Board’s made it decision and talks have ended. Legally, city council has not removed its offer from the table. It’s unclear what direction the city is taking. Some clarity should appear Wednesday when city council meetings in committee at 9:30 a.m.

The school board does not appear to be bluffing and it seems they are moving forward with their original “I want to pack my bags and go to our new building” mentality.

The province appears to be staying out of this fray.

As for the Knitting Mill – it’s finally on the media’s radar. Watch for something to happen now that it’s in the limelight.