Kincardine council okays more than 100 fee increases


By Kristen Shane

The fees you pay for a myriad of municipal services are going up next year. Everything from swimming in the Davidson Centre pool, to landing a plane at the airport, licensing a dog or renting a room in a municipal building will cost you more.

Council unanimously agreed, without any discussion, to a long list of fee increases at last Wednesday’s council meeting in the informal Committee of the Whole session. They will have to pass a formal bylaw at next Wednesday’s meeting for the changes to be set in stone. Department managers recommended the increases as part of a yearly fee review.

2010 is different

But 2010 is different. They have been asked to shrink their operating budgets by 6.5 per cent. It’s part of the municipality’s fight, on several fronts, to keep spending in check during what is expected to be an especially tight year. Already, without having crunched all the budget numbers (that comes in the new year), Kincardine is facing an almost $1.5 million shortfall.

“We’re facing right off the bat almost 20 per cent tax increase,” said Mayor Larry Kraemer after the meeting. So the fee hikes only make sense.

“They weren’t huge increases. We have to do something to keep up with it and to keep the finances of the municipality healthy,” he said.

He’s right.  Almost every municipal service will cost at least two per cent more. In most cases, that means only a few dollars or cents.

But some services will rise as much as 38 per cent, which could mean a jump of up to $100.

Davidson Centre health club rates to spike

One of the sharpest rises is in the cost of a membership at the Davidson Centre health club. It now costs $325 including taxes for an adult’s yearlong membership. In January, that will spike to $425, plus taxes. That’s about a 38 per cent increase.

All other health club rates are increasing by the same percentage.

The old prices were appropriate for when members lifted weights under the fluorescent light of the small basement health club, says recreation director Karen Kieffer. But with the Davidson Centre’s new addition, the health club has moved up to a large ground floor space with flat screen TVs and at least $35,000 worth of new fitness equipment.

“People are now paying for what they are getting,” says Kieffer.

The recreational services committee decided the fees had to rise after it took a poll of other municipally-run health clubs and found Kincardine’s rates were quite low, says councillor Guy Anderson, the committee’s chair.

The change may prompt some health club members to jog on the streets or lift weights in their basements instead, Anderson admits.

“But there’s a lot of public who don’t use that facility,” he says. “Likely 11,000 citizens don’t use the gym and they’re subsidizing that facility. So you have to look at those people who say, ‘Why am I paying for that?’”

That was one of the same arguments Gym Bags Health and Fitness owner Nestor Koturbash used to criticize the municipality in presentations this fall to the recreation committee and council. He said Kincardine wasn’t charging market rates for use of its improved gym.

But Anderson says the committee decided to increase the rates long before hearing Koturbash’s arguments.

“When we decided to enlarge the facility back a year ago, we at that time said we would have to increase the fees,” says Anderson.

On the bright side, the health club is offering a new pre-authorized payment system. Prices will stay the same, but members can choose to pay in monthly installments instead of all at once.

Hall rental, marina, fire dept. rates rise

Other larger fee increases include Davidson Centre Kincardine Hall or Underwood Community Centre rentals. They are slated to rise 11 per cent. The cost to rent the Kincardine Hall for a stag-and-doe, for instance, would jump from $543, before taxes, to $605. The cost for a resident to rent the Underwood Community Centre bar, kitchen and auditorium as well as the services of one bartender for a night would rise from $261 to $290, before taxes.

Boaters won’t be happy to hear the cost of renting a 20-foot floating dock at the harbour is up 12 per cent from $749 to $841, before taxes.

To recover its costs, the fire department is adding a few new fees and steeply increasing some administrative services.

People interested in buying a commercial or industrial property and wanting a fire inspection are set to pay $200, or almost double what they pay now. Letters to lawyers and insurance companies are also going up almost twofold, to about $54, before tax.

Companies wanting to train employees on how to use a fire extinguisher are set to pay $10 per person, for a minimum for 10 persons.

Kincardine’s administrative fire chief, Jamie MacKinnon, says the new extinguisher training fee is in an effort to recover costs from users rather than through general taxation.

The department teaches up to 500 people a year how to use extinguishers, he said.

It is also set to start charging $50 for responding to properties for burn complaints when the owner has no current burn permit. And out-of-towners who get into auto collisions on municipal roads are set to have to shell out at least $376 for the firefighters’ response.

The cost is usually covered through insurance, he says.

Some areas spared

The only areas spared any increase include: some water and septage fees; lottery license fees, because of an earlier council decision; taxi fees, because municipal staff think it best to hold off until after discussions with taxi owners; ice time fees, because the recreation committee felt it unfair to change the fees halfway through the season; cemetery rates and some garbage fees, because they are set for review next year anyway.

There may not be much to look forward to. In approving the fee increases, council also told municipal staff to review fees by the end of February that are now rising less than two per cent.

A sampling of rising rates:

(applicable taxes not included)

*information search through clerk’s office (per hour)

from $29 to $40

*basic building permit minimum fee

$65.60 to $70

*dog license (for each dog, for one to three dogs)

$12 to $13

*full day meeting room rental at Kincardine/Tiverton fire station

$36.25 to $60

*sanitary sewer service per unit per year

$300 to $330

*one-hour Davidson Centre pool rental (up to 25 people; two lifeguards)

$91.43 to $102

*single swim pass

(child) $2.62 to $2.86

(youth/senior) $3.10 to $3.33

(adult) $3.33 to $3.57

*Bronze Cross/Standard First Aid/CPR C

$215 to $228

*seniors games (first event)

$3.50 to $3.81

*summer children’s day camp (one week)

$93 to $100

*Yoga for Beginners (7-week session)

$91 to $97