Wingham Columbus Centre share financial trouble with North Huron council

·3 min read

WINGHAM – The Wingham Columbus Centre needs help, General Manager of the centre, Susan Doig said in a letter to council in November.

“Most of the 2020 bookings are just a rental, off-site drop off or a takeout meal. We have no way to generate the revenue in this pandemic, with the restrictions put on our limits to using our inside spaces,” she said in the letter.

Doig wrote the letter to open a discussion with council to see “what could be done,” specifically regarding their semi-annual payment that helps to cover the cost of utilities and pay down the North Huron Wescast Community Centre deficit.

“Usually, I count on the revenue from the Christmas season to help make our December payment, but this year is an exception to that rule.”

She added, “We have been trying to plan different take-out options and have upped the game on the homemade soups and TV-style dinners, but that isn’t nearly enough business to come up with $16,554.50.”

According to a report presented to council on Jan. 11, “Upon receipt of the letter, staff met with the General Manager of the Wingham Columbus Centre to discuss the situation and gather more information.”

In late December, a second meeting was held with Doig, Coun. Palmer and the North Huron director of recreation and community services.

Similar to the other local facilities, the Wingham Columbus Centre has pursued various opportunities to generate revenue and mitigate costs. These opportunities include:

-Application for the received 75 per cent wage subsidy for the 12-week period it was available. They were able to secure an interest-free loan from the government. The funding received was used to pay the first installment (in June 2020) for utility costs as per the agreement with North Huron.

-They investigated the rent subsidy program through the government. The group found they were not eligible for the funding because the wording in their lease agreement does not indicate they are paying for “utilities” or the “lease” of the facility.

-The heat/air settings in the facility were lowered to reduce costs.

-Decreased cleaning staff hours as a result of there being no rentals

-Have been communicating with their MPP and MP with respect to financial support being needed.

-Monitoring government websites and investigating new funding programs announced that support COVID-19 recovery.

-They have also been holding monthly Fish Fry’s (pickup only) and organized additional luncheon/supper meals (pickup only) as fundraisers.”

The Wingham Columbus Centre’s lease agreement requires an annual financial contribution of $41,800. The commitment has three sections, $19,300 goes towards utility costs, $10,000 to the payment on the overall deficit of the community complex and $12,500 towards a pledge made by “each of the Knights personally,” for the construction of the facility.

The Knights have indicated that they will be able to make good on their annual pledge payment.

“After a lengthy discussion the agenda item was deferred until the Feb. 1 council meeting to allow for council to be circulated with a copy of the current agreement and potential deferral payment options,” Carson Lamb, clerk of North Huron, said in an email.

Additionally, the North Huron Wescast Community Complex was broken into last month, as reported by Wingham Advance Times. $180 cash was stolen and a canvas bag from one of the offices was taken. OPP are actively investigating this incident.

Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times