MORRISBURG – South Dundas council opted to support youth recreation at municipal facilities by only increasing user fees for adult recreation. The council decided to push back against a wholesale increase for recreation users proposed by staff at its December 7th regular meeting.
The proposed fee increases, initiated by Director of Environmental Services Danielle Watson, suggested ice rental rate increases between 15 and 26 per cent at the Morrisburg Arena, and new fees charged for the first time for using municipal baseball diamonds.
“The budget ice rental for 2020-21 doesn’t even cover the labour costs associated with running the arena, let alone the building maintenance,” Watson told council about arena operations at the Morrisburg Arena. “We were looking to try to offset some of these expenses that we anticipate next year by increasing some of the rates.”
She added that the municipality should be putting some money away to deal with future infrastructure needs for South Dundas’ aging facilities, highlighting the upcoming replacement of the stairs at the arena in 2021 or 2022.
Watson said that staff had compared rates charged by South Dundas against other area municipalities. South Dundas has had the lowest ice rental costs of any municipality in SDG Counties, and does not charge for baseball diamond rental.
“I wouldn’t want to see it go up,” said Councillor Lloyd Wells about the fees for youth recreation. “Keep youth the same, I can live with the rest.”
Councillor Archie Mellan agreed with Wells on keeping the fees for youth programs the same.
“I’d rather see kids in minor hockey or the skating club in on the ice pad, rather than causing havoc on the street,” said Councillor Donald Lewis. “As far as the adults go, I have no problem charging them what-so-ever.”
“I agree with leaving the youth rates where they are,” said Deputy Mayor Kirsten Gardner. “I know through skating, they do a lot of fundraising so there must be a reason for that.”
“The arena has never made money and never will make money,” said Mayor Steven Byvelds.
He explained that while it would be good to put money aside for looking after the arena, a lot of money had already been spent on it in recent years.
“I think it is good for a number of years yet,” Byvelds said. “The future users will pay for a new arena.”
Council agreed to not increase fees for youth recreation programs, meaning ice time will remain at $95 per hour for minor hockey and figure skating. South Dundas-based youth baseball programs will not see any fees for using a municipal diamond.
The burden of paying for municipal facilities will go to adult recreation and junior hockey instead.
Ice rates for 2021-22 will increase from $125 to $150 for prime-time use, including junior hockey games. Non-prime-time ice use for adults will increase 18 per cent to $100 per hour, and a new non-resident rate for teams was added. Clubs and users from outside South Dundas will pay $200 per hour to rent the arena, this includes tournaments like the Leo Boivin AAA Classic Tournament from Prescott.
Also unchanged are school rental rates which will continue to pay $85 per hour for renting the ice. Each school will continue to receive two hours of ice time for free each season.
Council supported keeping the public skating programming free as well.
Adult recreation using South Dundas’ baseball diamonds will be charged $20 per game, but practices will be free. This includes recreation leagues such as Blooperball.
Council was supportive of keeping fee increases limited to adult recreation and out-of-area users.
Municipally-run programming like Yoga, Bootcamp, and adult Taekwondo will increase by 10 per cent, down from the 15 per cent increase proposed by Watson. Youth Taekwondo and swimming lessons will not increase, in line with council supporting youth programs in South Dundas.
Reactions to the fee increases were mixed.
“On behalf of the South Dundas Minor Hockey Association, I am thankful for council’s support of minor hockey and youth activities in general,” said association president Joyce Latulippe after the meeting. “Our ice fees allow us to run one of the most affordable hockey programs in the area keeping the youth of South Dundas engaged in organized sport.”
Williamsburg Pioneers baseball president David Lapier said he was happy to learn that the municipality is not going to charge youth teams to use the baseball diamonds.
“It’s a very good decision,” he said. “Recreation is very important in keeping kids active so I am glad South Dundas isn’t raising the cost.”
While youth sports and recreation programs were happy with no increases, the same cannot be said for local Junior C hockey club, the Morrisburg Lions. President and general manager Kevin Casselman is unhappy with the resulting increases.
“We would have been more receptive to a proposal with gradual increase rate format over two years,” he told The Leader saying that the 20 per cent increase during a pandemic risks a negative impact to the club.
“The majority of the our club are local players who, unfortunately were very affected with reduced hours of work, many could not find employment this summer,” he explained. “Passing on a 20 per cent increase in players fees will have a negative impact on those trying to balance post-secondary education cost.”
Unlike other junior hockey levels in Eastern Ontario, the National Capital Junior Hockey League caps its player registration fees at $700 per player and ticket prices are also capped at $8. This means clubs like the Morrisburg Lions are reliant on sponsorships.
“Our business community, which as long as I can recall has always been there for support, have always been super proud of their Junior Lions hockey team,” Casselman said. “Because of the pandemic, sponsorships are very difficult to even ask. So many have experienced and have ongoing struggles throughout 2020.”
Minor hockey structure explained
During the December 7th meeting there was confusion over the status of minor hockey operating in South Dundas. Watson explained that the South Dundas and North Dundas minor hockey programs were “amalgamated”. In fact, the two organizations remain independent of each other, but work together.
“South Dundas is an independent hockey association in District 1 of Hockey Eastern Ontario, as is North Dundas Minor Hockey,” Latulippe explained. “We collaborate on Rep-level hockey teams to offer a more competitive group with more players to choose a team from.”
She said that the associations each have their own executives and run house-level teams separately, often competing against each other.
Rep-level teams rotate every two years between South and North Dundas. In the 2019-20 season, South Dundas hosted the Under-11 and Under-15 level Rep teams, while North Dundas hosted the Under-13 and Under-18 teams.
Players who earn a spot on a Rep-level team move to that team’s host association for the season.
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