They’ll be rockin’ now: council agrees to new terms for Elora Rocks to pay their debt

ELORA – The Elora Rocks Hockey Club got the reprieve it needed from council to start a new season with a clean slate and a pathway out of debt.

Council, at its May 27 meeting, did not agree to forgive the debt that has accumulated to $25,000 over the years.

But it did endorse an agreement negotiated between the club and township staff to lower annual payments, with provisions to allow the 2024 payment to be remitted before the end of the year.

“It will make a difference,” team president Rich Wigmore said in a phone interview after the meeting.

“We are a community-based team and now that people are aware of the standing we’re in, we’ve had numerous calls and emails in support. So I’m happy with how it went.”

The Elora Rocks had fallen into arrears with the township and was making its payments until COVID-19 knocked them out of one season and the renovation of the Jefferson Elora Community Centre meant they lost their audience as they moved to Fergus for a season.  

Wigmore, who once played on the team, and Cassie Silverthorne took over management of the Rocks in 2021 and they delegated to council on April 29 hoping council would clear the debt.

Council deferred it decision so Wigmore and staff could look for other solutions and on May 27 he returned to council to explain all that had transpired since April.

Wigmore happily reported the club had strengthened its relationship with parks and recreation staff, had formed a board of directors, and he introduced Jason Castellan, also a former Rocks player, as the new board chair.

Staff had prepared a report outlining a new agreement. In addition to paying for ice time up front, the team would make a payment of $2,514 annually starting in May this year and over 10 years would clear the debt.

The previous agreement called for an annual payment of $3,143.

“This change will lower the Elora Rocks’ annual payments by $628.73 a year. It is important to note that everything else stated in the 2021 agreement would remain in full force and effect,” states the report.

But at the last minute, the Rocks sought another change – to allow them to make the $2,500 payment at the end of their season and not the beginning.

“We understand it has to be paid,” Castellan said. “Making the payment at the end of the season would help us get things going.”

He noted upfront costs like insurance and ice rentals would be difficult to meet since the team doesn’t start its season until September.

The township allocates ice in June, which is why they require payment in May.

Councillor Lisa MacDonald wondered if this new twist would pose problems for the township.

Treasurer Adam McNabb said staff is already stretching the interest-free policy by allowing a 10-year term, but it has been done before. 

However, if the payment is not made in 2024, it would represent a loss of interest for the township.

Given that, councillor Barb Evoy wondered if it was a fair ask.

“Nobody else gets this,” she said. “I wonder if they can fundraise like other people in the same boat.”

Councillor Bronwynne Wilton was not in favour, noting this was an adult team and not a children’s team.

“I think $2,500 should be doable – that’s a bottle drive,” she said. “I think the agreement you’ve done is great but not to defer it to 2025.”

“I feel this will be coming from somebody’s personal wallet,” countered councillor Kim Jefferson.

Mayor Shawn Watters noted that this arrangement is better than the club folding and the township never collecting the debt.

“My feeling is, I think this is a good conclusion,” he said. “What do we want in the end? Do we want a successful hockey team? 

“I know they’re going to work hard on this. I have confidence in this group.”

Jefferson wondered if it would help if the Rocks made the payment before the end of the calendar year.

They’d have some time to come up with the payment and keep the township’s book tidy.

She moved that motion and it passed with just Wilton opposed.

Wigmore told the Advertiser he is satisfied with the outcome.

“Hundreds of people come to town for our games,” he said. “They use our restaurants and facilities. There’s a real benefit to the community.

 “And we will take care of this debt,” he continued.

“But the biggest takeaway is the community knows the Elora Rocks are now set up for success. We will have an amazing season. The Rocks are going to be thriving this year.”