Kenora’s councillors have unanimously approved a new five-year deal with physicians of the Keewatin Medical Clinic to keep them in their building at 904 Ottawa Street.

The five-year deal leads the two partners into at least 2027, with 3 per cent year-to-year rent increases beginning after December 2022. Rates range between $1,450 per month in 2022 to $1,685 by 2027. Physicians will also have the option to opt into a five-year renewal into 2032.

This comes after a tumultuous summer for members and clients of the clinic.

In June, the City of Kenora explored selling the Keewatin Medical Clinic property to a new buyer, but physicians warned that the privatization of the building could lead to a loss of the clinic.

An offer to sell the building directly to practicing doctors was previously turned down, as was a potential sale to the Kenora Healthcare Centre Board.

After backlash from the public, the city explained that properties not occupied by municipal staff carry significant costs and maintenance work, and are considered ongoing risks and liabilities.

Despite receiving two bids of interest for the project – from the Lake of the Woods District Hospital and Titan Partners Ltd. - the city decided to stop pursuing the sale and start negotiating.

A five-year deal was proposed to councillors earlier this month during the city’s Committee of the Whole meeting. Staff say negotiations with the clinic began in June before their previous lease agreement expired on August 1, 2020.

The Keewatin Medical Clinic was built in 1985 after Keewatin residents fundraised 50 per cent of the cost, with funding matched by the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund.

After it was completed, the Town of Keewatin acquired the property and signed an agreement to lease the property and to repay the amount that citizens raised back to the township. The amount was repaid in 1992, and physicians have practiced there ever since.

The city notes the Town of Keewatin entered into a 10-year lease agreement with the clinic in 1999, which expired in 2009. A five-year lease was signed with Kenora in 2011 with a renewal in 2016, which expired earlier this year.