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Council extends skate-sharpening service at AYR Motor Centre

AYR Motor Centre’s skate-sharpening service will remain in place until the end of the current hockey season, and the town will make arrangements for the service to continue in the future.

Woodstock council addressed the quickly developing controversy at its Feb. 27 council meeting in response to public backlash following the news that AYR Motors Centre planned to immediately take over the spot used by J.A.D.E.’s Edges, operated by Barry Scott for skate-sharpening.

Mayor Trina Jones explained that staff made the decision without proper input from the council.

While staff handle the day-to-day operations of the AYR Motor Centre and all municipally run operations, any decision pertaining to public services should go through the council.

“Council doesn’t get involved in day-to-day decisions,” Jones said, “but if it impacts a service, we want to be informed.”

She explained the process failed in this situation.

“It didn’t roll out this time the way it should have,” said Jones. “It fired up the community for no need.”

The mayor explained the genesis of the decision surrounding the skate-sharpening service is the severe lack of space within the AYR Motor Centre and most town facilities.

She said a lack of office and storage space at the sports and other facilities requires a detailed analysis, which will take time.

As for the services offered by Scott at the AYR Motor Centre, she said, “nothing is happening this year.”

Jones said staff will talk to Scott about the future after the hockey and skating season. If he wants to continue the service, they will seek a location within the building to accommodate him.

Coun. Will Belyea asked if Scott signed a lease agreement or an M.O.U.

C.A.O. Allan Walker said J.A.D.E.’s doesn’t have either, but they pay rent. He said staff will talk to the owners to see if they want to continue for another year. If so, they will sign an agreement.

Jones said such an agreement would come before the council in much the same way the centre’s canteen agreement.

“So that will be an opportunity for us (council) to reevaluate,” she said. “If it’s a service we need and everyone is asking for and it’s deemed critical and important, then we have to reevaluate whether the M.O.U. is working for those who are trying to run the business.”

Jones said town staff and council heard the backlash from the public in several forms, including social media, letters and phone calls. She said the council and staff refrained from responding on social media, noting the council makes its decisions around the table.

She stressed she and the council read the letters carefully and took the writers’ views and suggestions seriously.

Jones said the viewpoints clearly indicate a strong appreciation for Scott’s service.

“Barry was shown a lot of love by the community,” she said.

The council discussion reached beyond the skate-sharpening dilemma to the widespread space shortage at the AYR Motor Centre, town hall and other town facilities.

Jones and Walker noted inadequate office space for recreational management and staff at the AYR Motor Centre. They also raised concerns about the need for more storage space.

The mayor said they must examine various options to address the situation. For example, she noted the board room on the centre’s top level. While the room produces revenue for the town, she suggested it could be in the town’s interest to convert it into office space.

Jones noted the space challenges are not limited to the AYR Motor Centre. She said no town facility offers staff or lunch rooms.

She noted space challenges forced the council out of its chambers, which now serve as office space for the Woodstock Police Force. She said the council is now relegated, as it was for the Feb. 27 meeting, to using Sam’s Room at the AYR Motor Centre for its meetings. At other times, the council meets in the facility Gallery Room.

Some town hall staff now work from remote rental offices.

“We need to revisit all spaces,” Jones said.

Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun