Today, Ward Three city council candidate Matthew Shoemaker gave his support to local restaurant owner Jody Wilson and his Chilly Willy’s restaurant located in the John Rhodes Centre. City Council is currently considering a proposal to relocate the east end library branch to the Chilly Willy’s location in early 2015, after the restaurant’s current lease agreement expires.
Shoemaker made it clear that he supports Wilson and the jobs that Chilly Willy’s creates locally. Shoemaker is hopeful that City Council will likewise consider the concerns of this local entrepreneur and decide against sending an unwelcome message to the business community.
“I spoke today with Jody Wilson, the owner of Chilly Willy’s,” said Shoemaker. “His business creates 15-25 local jobs, turns a profit each year, and he has plans to make additional investments. I do not think that City Council should take the step of requiring a successful business to close its doors in order to relocate a city service.”
“This has the potential of setting a dangerous precedent, one that could cause many entrepreneurs to think twice before entering into partnerships with the City. Businesses will be understandably concerned about embarking on any sort of joint venture with the municipality when there are past examples of cavalier decision making, which I feel this proposal exemplifies.”
Continued Shoemaker, “I am certainly not against relocating the library to an area where it can save tax dollars, but the library should not be moved at the expense of a business that creates jobs and produces revenue for the City.”
Shoemaker is also concerned that the proposed library move is being considered in a vacuum, without sufficient consideration being given to the needs and wants of users of the John Rhodes facilities.
“Many users and visitors to the John Rhodes appreciate having a full-service restaurant available on-site. Furthermore, not only is the area occupied by Chilly Willy’s ideal for a restaurant, it is ill-suited for a library. The comparison to the West End Community Centre is not an apt one, as that facility was designed and intended to house a library,” remarked Shoemaker.
Shoemaker notes that the space-needs of libraries are changing with e-readers, smartphones and digital media replacing traditional books and periodicals. “There are other vacant areas at the John Rhodes Centre. It would be worth determining whether or not these spaces could be reconfigured or expanded to meet the needs of a 21st century library.”
In conclusion, Shoemaker urged City Council to extend Chilly Willy’s contract and determine the best path forward for the library thereafter.