Wellington North seeking payment from out-of-town recreation users

Well­ington North council is directing Mayor Mike Broomhead, to send letters to municipalities whose residents use the township’s municipal facility, for operational expenses.

Council was not unanimous, with the vote 4-1.

Broomhead chose to vote with the majority, while councillor Dan Yake opposed it on the basis the intent was unclear.

The vote came during council’s discussion of the recreation and culture meeting minutes, which once again considered the issue of non-resident user fees.

Up to date statements were provided to council on the number of non-residents participating in various organizations making use of township facilities.

Most of the townships surveyed by recreation coordinator Linda Spahr indicated they do not charge additional fees for outside users.

The only one that did was Orangeville, which charges an additional 20% on programs and rentals in the pool area as well as ice and room rentals.

While councillor John Matu­sinec agreed with the idea in principle, he questioned how the split would be done.

Spahr said the move was directed mainly at ice rentals and ball fields.

Recreation chairman Bob Mason suggested the letter be from the municipality rather than the recreation committee for it “to carry more weight.”

Broomhead suggested in addition to the letter, there should be a meeting of the various groups involved to provide an update and determine how the groups are affected.

Matusinec asked how the separated funds would be collected – through minor Sports groups or the municipality?

“We haven’t really worked that out yet,” said Mason.

He added if the fees are not collected, recreation may have to consider moving to a user pay set up.

Councillor Ross Chaulk pointed out the municipality and recreation committee have talked about the issue for a few years. “It’s time to do something.”

Broomhead said there has been a user pay system on the pool for some time, and outsiders do pay additional fees.

Spahr said the main difference happens at registration.

She said a Minto resident would pay an additional $18 at the time of registration.

However, Southgate residents do not, because that municipality contributes to rec­reation’s operating expenses.

The difference, she said, is residents register directly with the municipality.

Matusinec asked how that would affect the junior hockey team since “most of the players are imports.”

Spahr said nothing has been decided about how to deal with that.

Treasurer John Jeffrey explained the situation with Southgate; the cost-sharing with the pool ended in 2008.

He said Southgate residents should be charged a non-resident fee at this time – but the bill for the additional cost goes directly to Southgate Township.

Yake asked if a final draft will be available for council to view before it it sent out.

Broomhead agreed.

Although the initial motion read the letter be drafted by the recreation coordinator, Spahr said again the recreation committee believes the letter should be sent by council.

In later questions, council was asked what happens if other municipalities choose not to offer operating expenses.

Broomhead said the details still need to be worked out. But he stressed there is a different agree­ment set up with South­gate.

He noted much of that came about because of the construction of the new Sportsplex in Mount Forest, but said there are a number of people outside the municipality who use the Arthur arena.

“It’s not necessarily something that’s going to be popular, but it needs to be fair.”

He said there are similar situations all over, he said. He added the usage numbers are far different than anticipated.

“It’s an ongoing issue and it needs to be resolved … even though we’re not there yet.”

He said the municipality is looking at user fees, but nothing has been decided.

However, there is no answer as to what happens if the surrounding municipalities refuse the request.

Mason felt there is still a likelihood user fees would come into play. He noted that since Southgate does share in the operating expenses of the Mount Forest Sportsplex, it is unfair that others do not.

Currently Southgate pays 20% of the net operating expenses of the Mount Forest Sportsplex, up to a maximum of $40,000 per year.

In addition, it made a $1-million contribution (over eight years) towards the construction of the facility.

Yake said he voted against it since he did not feel the municipality has the ability to implement and monitor the fees without a lot of serious thought – and to keep additional fees consistent.