Council skates backwards – minor hockey to get lower rate

Council reversed its decision and accepted new ice rental rates with a 20 percent discount for frequent users.

That’s a break that makes a big difference to hockey teams with a long season. In turn, it affects what families pay to enroll their kids, said residents who spoke in open forum.

Council had voted against keeping the volume discount at a previous meeting.

COUNCIL DISCUSSION

The 20 percent discount is for the 2024-25 season. That will give sports teams some certainty as they set their rates, said Mayor Paul McQueen.

“It gives us an opportunity to have a bigger dive into this,” he said of making the discount just for one season.

He also asked that increases be phased in over a few years, but that change was not made.

Coun. Nadia Dubyk thanked the community for the emails received, as well as the delegates who spoke at open forum.

She supported the 20 percent discount for frequent users. The municipality hasn’t changed the pricing for 12 years, she said, suggesting that the pace of the increase could be considered. “It feels like a big jump.”

Coun. Dubyk also pointed out that income from not giving the discount wouldn’t go far to reducing the net cost for the four arenas. When asked, the treasurer said the projected amount for 2023 was about $590,000.

It was noted that there’s a benefit to the municipality from the planning standpoint from an advance commitment.

Coun. Joel Loughead also mentioned receiving the emails with the message that the arenas were a focal point in the communities of Grey Highlands.

“We’re really trying our hardest to keep these arenas open,” he said.

The new rates move to the same ice rate across Grey Highlands, which results in the biggest jump in Rocklyn, where it was $102/hr without GST.

The new rate is $132/hr plus GST – before discounts.

For Osprey, the rate was $116, and for Markdale and Flesherton, $126, Coun. Paul Allen said. Again, those numbers are without discounts.

Coun. Tom Allwood said he has always supported keeping all four ice surfaces, but the reality is that there are costs associated with that.

Still, he agreed that the increase will be significant to hockey families.

COMMUNITY VOICES

Not just arenas, but broader recreation use and community use of halls have been discussed often in the last couple years.

A frequent complaint from communities has been a lack of understanding by staff and council of the local situation, and poor communication.

In fact, it seems that communication flow may be getting better, with Lesley Priddle saying she frequently speaks with staff.

“Why did you not take their recommendation?”, she asked, about council earlier voting against the 20 percent discount for multiple bookings included in the staff report.

She offered that the local community has ideas and suggestions to share and is willing to work.

“We can’t work with you unless you work with us.”

Angela Teeter, who is involved in the Shooting Stars, spoke about that team and the impact on costs.

At the earlier meeting, some reference was made to the high volume of unpaid use at the Feversham hall. Ms Priddle provided context for some of the numbers in the hall usage report. She said that about half of those hours were from pickleball. Many other users’ names were redacted for privacy, so are unknown. Community Health Centre uses are also free of charge, mostly during the day. Those programs, and that time period, often suit seniors.

Ms Priddle endorsed the municipality hiring someone to offer rec programs, like Southgate does, to increase usage and revenue from ball hockey, lacrosse, indoor soccer and other sports.

Another resident spoke to support the request for the multiple-use discount, saying her two sons started hockey this year, but it would be difficult to keep going if Minor Hockey had to pass on increased ice costs.

She emphasized the value to the community in sports and team play for mental health, which is a huge need among youth.

M.T. Fernandes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Flesherton Advance