Morris-Turnberry grants $115,000 in recreation funding to North Huron
BY DENNY SCOTT
After receiving a request for $242,000 for recreation expenses, and justification for said request, from North Huron Township, Morris-Turnberry Council decided to give $115,000 to its neighbouring municipality.
Morris-Turnberry Council members arrived at the $115,000 figure after deciding the municipality should only support specific portions of North Huron’s recreation budget..At the suggestion of Director of Finance Sean Brophy, council voted to not support any administration costs, costs associated with the gym at the North Huron Wescast Complex or costs associated with the upper hall at the Blyth and District Community Centre.
Brophy said the decision came down to what council wants to support, specifically talking about aspects of the recreation budget.
“To give the North Huron request fair consideration, staff are recommending dividing it into the indicated components, and [giving] each component a unique discussion,” he said. “After discussing it, council can decide what it wants to support.”
While council did discuss the issue at length, one of the concerns brought forward that didn’t find resolution was Deputy-Mayor Sharen Zinn’s question of how North Huron determined Morris-Turnberry’s share of the recreation costs is $242,000. While Brophy was able to clear up some of Zinn’s confusion, explaining that number was determined by looking at where each program user or member of the North Huron Wescast Complex lived, he did say that, without information regarding associated groups like Wingham Minor Hockey, the number might not be accurate.
“I’m not sure how they’re getting the 22 per cent without minor sports registration information,” he said.
Brophy started the discussion about the individual aspects of the recreation administration budget from North Huron by reviewing its administration budget. North Huron spent $444,828 on administration in 2021, 22 per cent of which is $97,862, Brophy said.
“Historically, we haven’t paid this directly,” he said. “We have provided funding for the [Wingham and Blyth centres].”
In Brophy’s report, he recommends declining to pay those administration costs.
Council agreed unanimously with the recommendation.
North Huron stated the total costs for the Blyth and District Community Centre for 2021 were $220,044, split between the arena ($160,173) and the upper hall ($59,871) at the facility. Twenty-two per cent of those costs are $35,238 and $13,172, respectively, Brophy stated, for a total of $48,410.
Council decided against supporting the upstairs hall at the Blyth centre, agreeing to pay $35,238 for the arena, with Zinn saying North Huron could decide to use those funds for the hall if they saw fit.
As far as the North Huron Wescast Community Complex, council decided it would contribute to the arena ($45,583) and the pool ($34,102), but not the fitness centre ($12,558) as there are private organizations that can provide that kind of business.
While council unanimously agreed on support for the arena, there were dissenting opinions on supporting the pool.
Zinn said that, even if previous funding hadn’t specifically been earmarked for the pool, she wholeheartedly supported Morris-Turnberry contributing to the running of the aquatic centre.
“I totally agree that the pool has a lot of people using it,” she said, referencing swimming lessons, physiotherapy and just general swimming.
Councillor Jamie McCallum, however, felt that $34,102 was too much to be putting towards the pool. Zinn said the funding made sense, as indoor pools always run with a deficit and that was likely the case when the pool was built.
“Even with our support, the pool will still run in a deficit,” she said. “I don’t think we should have to pay for past deficits, but I do agree with paying going forward.”
As part of council’s discussion regarding supporting the Wingham arena, council members said they preferred supporting specific parts of a neighbour’s recreation budget, where they had some kind of facts to base the amount on, even if they questioned where those numbers came from. Council members compared it favourably to having an outstanding contract for other community centres.
Thanks to funds put in reserves for recreation costs last year, as well as funds budgeted this year, the entirety of the $115,000 grant won’t be from taxation. Brophy said the decision to support North Huron will only result in $85,000 coming from the tax levy.
Councillor Jim Nelemans asked if council could use the COVID-19 funding the municipality received from the province to offset even more of the grant.
While some council members were in favour, others felt such a move could leave the municipality underprepared in the event of another wave of COVID-19. Mayor Jamie Heffer went on to say that there may be extra costs from the municipality’s agreement with Huron East to cover costs of the Brussels, Morris and Grey Community Centre directly tied to “COVID police” at the door of the facilities.
Brophy said North Huron would have to provide a report indicating how the municipality had “unexpected costs” as a result of COVID-19 at the facility He then suggested holding back $10,000 of the grant contingent upon North Huron providing that kind of information.
Heffer said he would prefer to keep the issue “simple” and that Nelemans’ suggestion would further complicate the issue.
Council directed staff to include a $115,000 grant in the 2022 Morris-Turnberry budget, with $30,000 offset by reserves and the rest coming from general taxation.