Heyden loses its outdoor rink. Blames Province's broken funding structureMonday, January 14, 2013 by: SooToday.com Staff
AWERES TOWNSHIP RECREATION COMMITTEE
Provincial government has broken the method of funding
AWERES, TWP., Behind the Aweres Public School in Heyden there is an outdoor rink that has been in operation for over 40 years.
The rink is used by many members of the community during evenings, and by the students at Aweres Public School as part of their physical education program.
This year marks only the second time since 1969 where the rink has not been operated.
The rink has been operated by the Algoma District School Board through an appointed Recreation Committee.
John Douville has served on the Aweres Township Recreation Committee since it’s inception in 1969.
Mr Douville said, “There has only been one other year where this rink wasn’t open, and it was because we just had too much snow.”
This year the rink is closed for a different reason though.
Mr. Douville said, “For the past number of years the funding to operate this rink came through a tax levy on local property owners. The tax was collected by the Algoma District School Board and amounted to less than $20 per property owner per year. In early 2009 the Ontario Provincial Government’s Ministry of Finance changed the way school taxes are collected. School Boards are no longer responsible for collecting school taxes. Aweres Township is an Unorganized Township with no municipal government, and property taxes are now collected by the City of Thunder Bay, on behalf of the Provincial Government. When the government made this change, it broke our method of funding. Since 2009, we’ve been funded to operate this rink by the Algoma District School Board, as a courtesy, while the problem was to be sorted out. According to the Provincial Government, the Aweres Township Local Services Board should be involved to get this funding for the community recreation committee.”
The Aweres Township Local Services Board is mandated through legislation to maintain Fire and Library Services.
They operate the Aweres Township Volunteer Fire Department, and have a contract with the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library to provide library services to Aweres Township residents.
Other services boards in the Sault North Area, such as the Goulais, and Searchmont LSB’s also have Recreation as part of their mandate, but the Aweres Twp. LSB does not.
Mr. Douville continued, “The ADSB advised us a year ago that they could not continue funding the operation of this rink through their budget. We needed to get the Local Services Board to get involved so that the tax collection and funding for the rink could be restored. We approached the Aweres Township Local Services Board to have them take on the task of recreation for our community but they refused, citing that they didn’t want to have the personal liability should someone get injured, and also didn’t want the additional administrative tasks. So we are left hanging here with no method to restore the funding method that worked well for decades.”
“We put out a petition in the community to determine if the community wanted to have the rink continue in operation. Over 200 signatures were collected within a couple of weeks. The youth in our community have no real local community recreation opportunities, and the rink has been a gathering place for local youth for many years. We have everything in place including volunteers, equipment, a building, power, and of course the kids that want to use the rink, but we don’t have a method to restore the funding. The budget to operate this rink is currently approximately $11,000 per year. At first glance that may sound like a lot to many, but we have expenses including power, fuel, equipment, maintenance, snow clearing, insurance, and a caretaker for the rink. They all add up. It’s a shame to see something like this closed for a simple reason of a mess up on the part of the government.”
“In November we contacted the office of Algoma MPP Michael Mantha to see if he could cut through this red tape, but to date there has been nothing more than an acknowledgement that they received our complaint. It’s too bad because it is the youth of our community that lose out. I just hope that these kids don’t find some bad alternatives in spending their time.”
The Rink Caretaker for the past number of years has been Bob Garson.
Bob also sits on the Recreation Committee.
Bob said, “Last year we had a great group of kids volunteering to help out, it was the largest number we’ve ever had in recent memory. The time these kids spend helping with the rink goes towards their high school volunteer hours. That opportunity to get some volunteer time in has also been lost with the closure of this rink. I’ve talked with a number of people with the Ontario Government, the Local Services Board, and the Algoma District School Board and there doesn’t seem to be any coordination to get this funding restored. We aren’t looking for a handout, we are looking for the funding to get restored the way it was in the past. The community funds this rink, but we can’t get the tax collectors onside to get the money flowing again.”
Further background information on this problem is available in a report entitled “The Outdoor Rink at Heyden may be Closed this Winter”, prepared by Tom Stephenson, a concerned community member.