Council resolve tested quickly

Mapleton councillors were quickly tested on their resolve to stick to a new tougher stance on requests for reductions or waivers of facility rental fees.

Council passed a resolution at the Dec. 13 meeting, eliminating fee reductions and waivers, a practice commonly done as means of subsidizing facility users, particularly those raising funds for community projects.

At the Jan. 10 meeting, council received a letter from Palmerston and District Hospital Foundation development officer Dale Franklin requesting a waiver of the PMD Arena Complex fees for the foundation’s Starlight Gala, a major  hospital fundraiser, set for May 27.

Council has regularly waived all fees for the use of the facility for the gala, which is rotated between arena complexes in Harriston, Palmerston and Drayton. The Town of Minto does the same when the gala is held in Harriston or Palmerston.

It might have been tempting to make an exception for the gala, given the hospital’s importance to the community’s physical and economic well-being – and such a decision would have been tough to criticize.

However, council is so far sticking to its plan and directed staff to work with foundation officials on minimizing their costs operationally. A similar approach was taken with the Drayton Kinsmen for the 2016 Farm Show and resulted in a reduced facility rental fee achieved through actual reductions in township expenditures for staff time and other costs.

It’s a fair approach and one that doesn’t compel every taxpayer to provide additional support for every cause through an addition to the PMD facility’s annual deficit, pegged by Mayor Neil Driscoll at a recent meeting at not far from a half-million dollars. Through the deficit, taxpayers already provide a measure of support for all events at the facility.

The decision doesn’t have to mean less support for the gala from Mapleton, as local individuals, businesses and organizations could increase their voluntary contributions to the event in a number of ways, such as enhanced donations to the auctions or higher bids on items offered.

The new policy also allows council to avoid the unenviable position of deciding who gets a break and who doesn’t.

At first glance, the move might appear in contrast to the decision at the same meeting to once again provide $10,000 in municipal support for the Minto Mapleton Health Professional Recruitment Committee’s efforts.

However, in this case, the contribution might be viewed less as a donation and more an investment in a vital local agency with few other significant sources of revenue. Without contributions from the municipalities they serve, such committees would either fold or be compelled to divert valuable resources to fundraising instead of concentrating on recruiting the health professionals this area so desperately needs.

Neither decision was made lightly. There was considerable discussion around the council table, both at this meeting and over the past few years, on the rental fee issue. The decision to again fund the recruitment committee was made after a very professional and persuasive presentation from key members of the organization.

Council seems to have arrived at solid ground in both cases.