User fees increased as township tackles
rising building costs

by Matthew Uhrig
Press staff

WINCHESTER – It is a situation that current council members are unlikely to alter, but one that grows more precarious as time marches on.

The problem? Municipally owned buildings, and more specifically the increasing number that user groups expect the Township of North Dundas to maintain. This despite the fact overall hall rental rates remain stagnant, and in certain cases have declined.

In June, recreation director Meaghan Meerburg presented politicians with a chart that outlined a current rate grid, as well as a proposed chart, in an effort to turn the tide of financial loss and promote a higher level of cost recovery.

At that time, politicians bandied about the proposed rate increases, and tinkered with the idea of imposing fees for user groups or other individuals making use of the space, who in the past have not paid.

It is a predicament similar to that of ice rental rates in Winchester and Chesterville, where expenses associated to operating the two recreational facilities continue to rise but use has remained status quo or regressed, if only slightly.

To get a better grasp of the situation and mounting troubles, Meerburg researched historical reasons for usage and the agreements in place, and then averaged out monthly hours of use for each municipally owned facility.

The results, shared during the Township of North Dundas’ Tues., Aug. 12 council meeting, further confounded council’s need to take action, Councillor Al Armstrong said.

“Some [of the results are] what I feared it would be, and something we’ve got to address,” he said.

Meerburg averaged monthly hours of use between January and March, and some of the results were startling to politicians.

“[In most cases] these are pre-amalgamation terms,” Mayor Eric Duncan said. “A lot of the use is for free, but that use is limited.”

At the Chesterville Community Hall, located along the South Nation River in the same building as the village’s medical centre and library, there were 74 hours of use in the three-month span, with just 24.5 hours per month.

The same goes for the South Mountain Resource Room, with just 64 hours of use throughout three months, and 21 total hours per month.

At the Old Town Hall in Winchester, however, usage was second highest among all the buildings charted with 307.5 hours between January and March, translating to 102.5 hours per month.

The Mountain Community Hall had the highest percentage of use, with 316 hours throughout the three months, and 105 hours per months, largely due to the Joanne Whittaker School of Dance using the building four days per week.

A change council did agree to Aug. 12 was an increase in user fees, upping the rates across the board. The alterations will be noted among the township’s user groups, and for any individuals renting a hall in the future.

“It is what’s right… Adjust the rates to what they should be,” Deputy-Mayor Gerry Boyce said. “Down the road, we’re going to have to look at what we’re going to do with these facilities.”

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