Tay Legions denied concession on water bills

·2 min read

Tay council decided to avoid the slippery slope of giving every business a concession by denying a water bill relief request by local Legions.

The request was sent in via letter by Jim Pearson, president of Royal Canadian Legion Br. 523 - Victoria Harbour, who asked council to consider providing temporary relief to all three legions in the form of reduction in water/sewage bills.

"We pay $116 per month," he said, in an interview later with MidlandToday. "And there's nobody in the branch. I have no problem paying some money but I would like to pay based on our usage. March to Nov. 2019 was $1,595, and $1,045 from March to Nov. 2020.

"Financially, we are fine," added Pearson, who was not present at the council committee meeting. "It's just that we're looking to reduce our cost. We won't be open regularly until late next fall."

Council, however, wasn't sure how it could support the non-profit beyond the $1,000 it had already approved from its community grants program in December. Pearson told MidlandToday he still hasn't received the money.

Deputy Mayor Gerard LaChapelle said it was a tough one for council.

"What path does this take for all the other businesses that are suffering?" he said.

Coun. Barry Norris agreed.

"If we give relief to just strictly the three legions, we have to give relief to everybody," he said.

Coun. Sandy Talbot pointed out that Legions had recently received money from the government.

"I'm not sure which legions were recipients," she said, adding, "They did get some money recently. I do agree that it's a slippery slope."

When asked that question, Pearson explained to MidlandToday that his Legion branch received $10,845 in government funding, which has helped.

"I'm reducing all of our costs, whether it's our phone or hydro bills or plowing our parking lot," he said. "I have had success reducing others. I don't mind paying something, but we're not even using anything (right now)."

At the meeting, Mayor Ted Walker said he recognizes the important role Legions play in the community.

"The problem is that this is a user-pay system (water services)," he said. "I thought we were fairly generous in what we'd done before."

Walker said it might be an idea for staff to look into what, if any, leeway could be given to the Legions around a delay in payment.

Coun. Jeff Bumstead said he agreed with that approach.

"I think that's how it should be dealt with," he said.

Whether council does that or not, Pearson said it was worth a try to put the request to council.

"It would have been nice of them to consider the request," he said. "I might go after them again later in the year, depending on how long we have to stay shut."

Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com