By Howaida Sorour-Roberts
The Smiths Falls Committee of the Whole held on July 25th at Town Hall was well attended as supporters of the community pool filled the gallery.
The upshot of the meeting was that the Town of Smiths Falls will seek legal clarification as to their exposure to the Hub’s debts and has also asked the Smiths Falls and District Aquatic Recreation Centre’s (ARC) board for a financial plan detailing the costs of running the pool and how those costs will be paid over the next five years, before making a decision to enter into a new Memorandum of Understanding with ARC.
However the meeting began with a bang when Smiths Falls Councillor Joe Gallipeau made a surprise announcement.
“The Gallipeau Centre and the Gallipeau family will not be charging ARC any rent for the operation of the community pool from now on,” said Gallipeau, pointing out that under that development he no longer has a conflict of interest when it comes to discussions or votes regarding the pool.
In spite of that, the issue of funding for ARC has been deferred to give both parties time to gather the information some members of the committee said they need.
“Before a decision is made we need more in depth legal advice, to ensure that the town and taxpayers are not exposed to the Hub’s debt,” said John Maloney, Smiths Falls councillor. “I wouldn’t support any business that doesn’t have a five-year plan, I need to see in front of me how much it costs to run the pool and how you are going to pay for it. Before we support them, they need to be babysat because they surprised us before with a $340,000 debt.”
While the figure for the debt was not entirely accurate, both Smiths Falls councillors Dawn Quinn and Jay Brennan generally agreed with Maloney.
“The pool pays the town $24,000 a year for water and sewage and $9,200 in Smiths Falls taxes for a total of $33,000, they are asking for $44,000, so where else can you get a community pool at a cost of $10,000,” shot back Gallipeau.
Malcolm Morris, Smiths Falls CAO Smiths did point out that the town would not be able to match the $6,000 that Merrickville-Wolford had previously provided the Hub, as it was before ARC was created, and while he did try to assure the committee that legal council had already cleared the town of exposure to the Hub’s debt, several councillors felt that the issue needed more examination.
Photo: Displaying their support for the Smiths Falls and District Aquatic Recreation Centre, members of the public filled the gallery at the Smiths Falls Committee of the Whole meeting held on July 25 at Town Hall. Photo by Howida Sorour-Roberts