Arthur seniors worry about losing citizen hall as lease expiry nears

ARTHUR – Local seniors are worried a long-standing and daily meeting place will be no more come December, after receiving news about the looming expiry of a 10-year lease for the Arthur Senior Citizen Hall.

For 53 years the township-owned hall at 224 Isabella St. has been a much-loved centre of fellowship for many local seniors who play euchre, bridge, cribbage and shuffleboard there.

A local addictions support group also uses the hall, and the Victorian Order of Nurses teaches exercise classes to seniors twice per week.

But with the lease on the building expiring at the end of the year, about 20 Arthur Seniors Club members packed into Wellington North council chambers on March 6 for a public delegation urging the lease be renewed.

Members Bill Dennis, Joyce Culp, Vivianne Macdonald and Mike Bolen spoke about the building’s history, its importance to local seniors as a meeting place, and their concern about where seniors would go if the lease isn’t renewed.

The township is open to talking about renewing the lease, Mayor Andy Lennox told the group, but there are long-standing concerns about the cost of building upkeep and its current condition.

The township covers the cost of utilities and the club pays around $4,800 per year to lease the hall; it also keeps all revenue from rentals and events there.

Between now and when the lease expires, the mayor suggested township staff and club members meet to work out how to keep the hall operating for seniors’ use.

Councillor Penny Renken asked about alternative locations, but club members seemed averse, voicing concerns about privacy, stairs, wheelchair access, and daily use.

“I don’t think today is the best opportunity for us to have a negotiation around what that looks like,” Lennox said, suggesting a later meeting.

“We are committed, I believe, to finding a way to accommodate the needs of the seniors group some way within our community.”

CAO Brooke Lambert confirmed the township could meet club members within the “next few weeks” and “develop a plan for moving forward.”

Following the meeting, club members declined to speak openly to the Advertiser about the importance of the building, fearing they would muddy the waters.

At least one member wasn’t aware the delegation was public, telling the newspaper it was a private matter between the club and council.