The Hamilton Waterfront Trust is looking for an interim executive director. The job is being posted for a one-year term. The move was made necessary when staff told council last month it might take a year to come up with a plan to wind down the organization and transfer its functions to the city. Both the previous board of directors and the current board favoured ending the HWT after 20 years, in part because there was no path forward for operating the organization as a going concern. HWT had relied on construction contracts sole-sourced by the city to generate revenue, but continued to post operating losses in most years after it had used up its original $6 Million endowment. In the past year the city waterfront work had reached a state of completion, with nothing new on the horizon.
Werner Plessl, who was the HWT Executive Director from its inception, retired at the end of 2022, and an interim executive director was scheduled to leave this month. Last month when Hamilton Council considered the future of the organization, staff presented a report that recommended three options—status quo, takeover by the city or a hybrid model. HWT Chair Cameron Kroetsch objected to the staff recommendation that the status quo remain an option and was successful in getting it removed from consideration.
The Hamilton Waterfront Trust was formed in 2020 after the City and the old Hamilton Harbour Commission settled a long-standing lawsuit. As part of the settlement, $6 Million was provided to the city to establish the trust with a mandate to connect the community to the shoreline through the provision of trails and other recreational amenities such as the Williams restaurant, the skating rink and the trolley. In its early years the HWT successfully leveraged its resources to develop trails along Beach Boulevard and into Confederation Park, as well as extending the trail system in the West Harbour. In its later years the HWT began to run deficits and at the same time was criticized for opaque business practices, culminating with a lawsuit over the eviction of the Sarcoa Restaurant which ended up costing more than $600,000.
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