Imposing a ban on residents of neighbouring municipalities that refuse to join in a recreation facility cost-sharing agreement with Smiths Falls “is not going to be fun for anybody,” town councillors were told at a meeting May 1.
After learning that the Village of Merrickville-Wolford had voted not to pay about $15,000 to the town of Smiths Falls to give its residents access to the town’s arenas under a new cost-sharing plan, town staff offered recommendations on how to ensure the agreement is fair to those municipalities that have agreed to sign on. The neighbouring municipalities of Rideau Lakes, Elizabethtown Kitley and Drummond/North Elmsley have voted to participate in the agreement. Montague Township is still considering the proposal.
Smiths Falls Director of Community Services Art Manhire said prohibiting township residents from using Smiths Falls arenas would be the preferred option if their municipality declines to pay its share of operating those facilities. Although collecting a user fee from each individual resident to allow them access to the arenas is another option, Manhire said it hasn’t worked well in the past. Leaving it up to sports leagues to collect the user fees is a cumbersome process, he said.
“We did not collect a lot of the fees last time, which is why one of the proposals on the table is prohibition of use,” said Manhire.
Smiths Falls Chief Administrative Officer Malcolm Morris also reported that, “Our experience with the surcharge is not particularly positive in terms of collecting the money from those who owe it.”
Morris told councillors that, “We respect the fact that those who have chosen to partner and contribute expect the same from others.”
Town staff reported that Merrickville-Wolford’s annual share under the new agreement is actually the lowest among the six partner municipalities. Rideau Lakes is being asked to contribute $110,000, with Elizabethtown Kitley paying $22,000, and Drummond/North Elmsley $33,000. Montague Township’s share in 2017 would be about $45,000.
“As a taxpayer in Merrickville, I’d be wondering why we’re considering what we’re considering tonight, and for that little money,” commented Councillor Jay Brennan.
Although Councillor Joe Gallipeau objected to a ban on the grounds that it would prevent children from being able to play sports, Councillor Lorraine Allen responded that, “People are just going to have to put pressure on their council to pay their fair share.”
Councillors agreed to direct staff to provide more information, and to allow time for Montague to vote on the proposal, before deciding how to proceed.