Renfrew – The Town of Renfrew and CAO Rob Tremblay have responded to questions surrounding the eviction of a long-time tenant and an article published in the Leader.
The Eganville Leader published a story a few weeks ago about Dave Bennett and his business Marshall’s Construction and Welding being issued an eviction notice by the Town of Renfrew. In the article, Mr. Bennett noted he was never given an explanation about why he was asked to leave the unit he has occupied for over 20 years and stated he was only allowed to communicate with the town through legal counsel. The Leader contacted Mayor Tom Sidney for comment. At the time, the town issued a short statement and noted no further comment would be forthcoming.
A letter to the editor was received this week from Mr. Tremblay and since it exceeds the 500-word limit, the Leader has chosen to publish the letter in its entirety in this format to enable the town to fully share its perspective on the issue. In the letter, Mr. Tremblay provides quotes from the article and responds with the Town’s response. The quote will be in italic and the response from the Town to follow.)
“I am writing to you in my capacity as Chief Administrative Officer for the Corporation of the Town of Renfrew (the ‘Town’). As you are aware, the Eganville Leader (‘the Leader’) published an article on August 22, 2023, with the headline ‘Eviction Notice Leaves Long-Time Tenant Facing Bankruptcy’. The article discusses Marshall’s Construction and Welding’s (Marshall’s) lease with the Town and features many statements made by Mr. Bennett.
“The Town did not wish to litigate this matter through the media. However, seeing as though Mr. Bennett has now involved the Leader, we find it necessary to respond to the accusations being put forth and published by your newspaper. Unfortunately, many of the comments contained in the article are misleading, inflammatory, and/or factually incorrect. As such, the Town would like to provide the following corrections to some of the statements made in the article. The statement in the article is followed by the Town’s correction. This list is not exhaustive.
“Dave Bennett, owner of Marshall’s Construction and Welding and, coincidentally, mayor of neighbouring Horton Township, has been a tenant in what is now known as the Renfrew Innovation Centre since 2000, but now the town is evicting him from the location without reason.’ — The Town, through its counsel, has provided Mr. Bennett with detailed explanations as to why the commercial lease is being terminated. Mr. Bennett is aware of the reasons.
” The eviction will most likely bankrupt his company, put at least 20 people out of work and create an interruption in services the company provides to several industries and municipalities in Renfrew County and the Muskoka Region. — The Town’s lease exists with Marshall’s, not any of Mr. Bennett’s other business ventures. By the Town’s best estimate, Marshall’s location at Innovation Centre employs 3-5 individuals.
“Mr. Bennett was first notified in the spring he had until June 30 to vacate the premises, but the eviction order was delayed as his solicitors attempted to negotiate a resolution with the town. Although he has complied with everything the town has asked of him in recent months, the latest eviction notice is for October 31. And it is firm. — The Town extended the lease termination date on multiple occasions to allow Marshall’s sufficient time to wind down its operations and vacate the premises, and to restore the premises. It is in the best interest of the Town that the premises be vacated.
“Mr. Bennett said the industrial commission paid for much of the repairs, but his company also shared in the costs. “I think we have about a $400,000 investment in the building,” he said. — To our knowledge, any investments that Mr. Bennett or Marshall’s made into the building were then credited to its rent amount. Neither Mr. Bennett, nor Marshall’s have made any improvements to the building that were not financially compensated for in the form of a credit towards rental payments.
“With the cash flow interruption during COVID, his company got behind in payments to the town. However, at the time, he and then clerk Kim Bulmer worked out a plan to pay what was owed. “I gave him a timeline and I kept that timeline,” he said. “I gave a timeline of seven months for me to get caught up and I did that.” — Marshall’s has been in and out of rent arrears throughout its lease of the premises. Recently, upon being in significant rental arrears, Marshall’s entered into an accelerated payment plan to bring the unpaid rent into good standing. After a few months of adhering to the payment plan, the accelerated payments ceased. There were numerous occasions wherein Marshall’s was in significant arrears for unpaid rent.
“With the building fully occupied, the ensuing decade was routinely under control. However, there were frequent roof leaks, furnace malfunctions and seasonal maintenance requirements. Marshalls was the go-to company for most of this work. As an example, the security monitoring company had Mr. Bennett as “first to call” when there was any breach. There were many such calls he responded to at all hours of the day and night. Emergencies, even false alarms, were frequent. – The article omits the fact that Mr. Bennett was compensated for these duties.
“When Mr. Bennett asked town staff what the rationale was for such action, there was (and still is) no answer. He has been instructed not to speak with any member of council or staff member. He was also told the only communication is to be through lawyers. — There have been many reasons given to Mr. Bennett, including environmental concerns, persistent missed rental payments, delayed adherence to payment plans in order to bring arrears into good standing, amongst others. After being made aware that Mr. Bennett was contacting numerous staff and members of council outside of their works hours, he was asked to communicate any concerns through his counsel.
“Some of the requirements associated with the eviction notice included removal of scrap and debris in the back yard. Another was to have remittances for rent made on the first day of each month. Mr. Bennett has complied with these orders. Rent is paid up to date and numerous large transport loads of scrap have already been removed from the yard. Ironically, Marshalls’ portion of the debris is only about one third of the overall mess. — This is factually incorrect. Much of the debris and wreckage in the yard was caused or created by Marshall’s. Other tenants have access to the yard for proper storage.
“The eviction notice also stipulates that the entire removal is considered Marshalls’ problem. Mr. Bennett had a verbal agreement from the town’s representative assigned to the building, Dan Laverdure, however, he was recently dismissed from his duties. — There is no ‘verbal agreement’. As with any lease, commercial or residential, tenants are expected to leave the premises in a clean and tidy fashion, free of any of the tenants’ chattels. This expectation is no different for Marshall’s.
“There is no indication the town has a new tenant to occupy this space. The eviction of Marshalls will result in the loss of rent revenue to the town, amounting to more than $130,000 annually. In the past two decades Marshalls has paid approximately $2.4 million to Renfrew, not always on time, but always eventually. — At the time that the Notice of Termination was provided to Marshall’s, it was paying a fraction of market rent. The Town has a duty to ensure fair market value is being paid for the lease of Town owned property. The Town is also bound by the Municipal Act and is prohibited from assisting commercial enterprise by leasing property of the municipality at below fair market value. It is reviewing all expired and existing leases to make necessary changes.
“We trust that this additional information and clarification will assist your readers. Rob Tremblay, Chief Administrative Officer.”