$2 rental fee too high

Seniors want free use of addition

Kincardine’s Bid Euchre and Shooter Club is a tough group to please.

More than a dozen members of the seniors group attended the May 6 Kincardine council meeting protesting the cost of room rental at the new Davidson Centre addition.

“The municipality is proposing a new facility for dogs, free-of-charge,” said club president John Kesteloot. “But, the recreation committee has seniors paying, we hope council will (see it fair) to treat seniors the way (better than the) dogs (are).”

Recreation director Karen Kieffer presented council with a report on the proposed rental fees for the new Davidson Centre addition.

The fee structure remains similar to the cost of renting rooms in the existing Davidson Centre. There is a charge of $32 for three-hour rentals of meeting rooms, and seniors groups would pay $2 per person, per rental, to a maximum of $32.

Currently, seniors use the room at the top of the Davidson Centre ramp for free. Many seniors complained this was inaccessible and too small and became vocal supporters of the new addition. The new addition cost the municipality more than $2-million and the cost of upkeep for the facility is expected to top $200,000 annually.

With the added cost, the recreation committee thought it was appropriate to charge seniors a nominal fee to use the facility. All seniors groups were told of the potential fee increase, only the Bid Euchre and Shooter Club spoke out in opposition.

“We play cards because it’s affordable,” said Kesteloot. “For a lot of our members, this is their only chance to get out.”

The addition was announced last year, but the new building did not come with furniture or any accessories. The recreation committee encouraged the user groups to raise money to furnish and outfit the building with the appropriate items.

The Bid Euchre club held 50/50 draws and received a grant from Home Depot to put towards supplies. The club also led a successful Trillium Grant application to bring in a snooker table, couches, window blinds, a microwave and other items. In total, the club helped raise $26,000.

Kesteloot also said he was angry with the municipality for a perceived slight on the club. The group arranged for a cheque presentation photo in February to give the money to the municipality. On a busy afternoon, no municipal representatives arrived and the photo was taken with maintenance and lifeguard staff.

“The press showed up, but neither recipient did,” Kesteloot said. “It was humiliating to us that (the municipality) didn’t think enough of us to keep their commitment.”

Councillor Guy Anderson, a member of the recreation committee, apologized for not attending the photo opportunity. He said most of the recreation staff was in meetings that afternoon.

Anderson said the recreation committee proposed fees that are similar to the current rental costs. The committee didn’t think it could give one group preferential treatment over another.

The Euchre Club told council it wants use of one room in the new addition, free-of-charge. The same deal it currently receives, and has received for 30 years.

“They are seniors, they have already paid their dues,” said councillor Randy Roppel, who’s not far from being a senior himself. “Do I have a problem with them getting something for free? I don’t think it’s free; they’ve already paid for it. They’ve given back (to society) ten-fold.”

The addition won’t be completed until at least June, meaning council has time to reconsider the recreation board’s recommendation. Councillor Mike Leggett said the rental agreements should have been drawn up before the addition was even started.

“We should’ve thought of this before we ever started whatever that thing is up there,” he said.

The multi-use addition includes meeting rooms and a computer area, as well as a room for the fitness centre. Anderson said it’s not just a building for seniors. Seniors groups are expected to use the facility most days, while community groups and private citizens will rent rooms on evenings and weekends.

“We can afford to give them one room,” said councillor Gord Campbell. “The reason for this building is so they could get at (the seniors room). I’ll support them for one room.”

Kesteloot said the group wouldn’t have been so supportive of the project if members knew it would cost them.

“We raised $26,000 and you wouldn’t have it if we’d have known you were going to charge us,” Kesteloot said.

This was the first time council heard anything of the new rental agreement proposal. Councillors agreed to send the matter back to the recreation committee for more discussion before the final decision comes back to council next month.