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Councillors reject call to bankroll Elmira car-sharing plan

Deeming the venture too risky, Woolwich will not extend a line of credit to an organization looking to extend a car-sharing service into the township.

Councillors meeting Aug. 7 turned down Grand River CarShare’s (GRCS) request for $30,000 that would help fund two or three vehicles to be placed in Elmira. The line of credit, requested early last year, would be similar to arrangement’s the group has in Waterloo, Kitchener and Cambridge. GRCS also has deals with the region, Hamilton and, most recently, St. Catharines.

Parked in accessible public locations, the cars could be rented by the hour to those who join the not-for-profit cooperative. The idea is to provide a section of the population with the benefits of car use without the downside of car ownership.

Matthew Piggott, the organization’s membership services co-ordinator, told councillors the organization believes the service is viable in the township, getting close to the initial 35 members needed to start operating here.

Admitting that “running a car-share business outside of Toronto is risky,” he suggested the group’s 14 years of continued membership growth and expansion make it a reliable partner.

Councillors weren’t convinced, however, supporting director of finance Richard Petherick’s recommendation against extending a line of credit based on the organization’s financial statements.

“We don’t see the risk exposure as something the township should get involved with,” he said, adding that if the operation folded there would be little chance Woolwich would get its money back.

The township did not turn its back completely on the concept. Led by a motion from Coun. Allan Poffenroth, council approved GRCS’ request to provide three parking spots in various locations as potential pick-up/drop-off spots for its vehicles. The locations would have signs indicating they could one day be home to a car-share vehicle, in effect promoting the concept.

“I think we should help them do what they want to do,” he argued, noting the arrangement wasn’t a lifetime commitment – “you can always get a divorce.”

Although opposed by Mayor Todd Cowan and Coun. Bonnie Bryant, Poffenroth and Coun. Julie-Anne Herteis voted in favour, with Coun. Mark Bauman siding with them in his role as chair of the committee-of-the-whole meeting.

With the vote, council instructed director of recreation and facilities Karen Makela to meet with Piggott in order to determine where the parking spots should go.

Speaking after the meeting, Piggott said council’s denial of the line of credit was a setback, but the group intends to push ahead with its plan to offer car-sharing services in the township.

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