Gravenhurst Council deliberate about waiving facility rental fees
Gravenhurst Council had a long deliberation about waiving the facility rental fees for the YWCA, in the September 19, 2023, meeting.
The charity requested that the Town waive the $2579.93 fee for renting the Terry Fox room at the Centennial Centre, which includes the auditorium, meeting room, and kitchen, to host the annual Canada Membership Meeting next June.
Councillor, Jo Morphy, indicated that there will be 170 delegates attending the meeting. She said, “It’s a good service organization. We have the facilities. They might be sitting empty.”
Other Council members concurred, feeling the organization offers a lot to the Town, or as Councillor Strength put it, “it’s an investment,” given the volume of people visiting and the potential for repeat visitors.
Upon inquiry by Councillor, Christina Hunter, about how many charities request the waiving of rental fees, Director of Recreation and Culture, Shawna Patterson, advised that they received 15 from non-profit groups over the course of a year.
Patterson added that the Town already gives non-profit organizations a reduced rate for facility rentals.
Councillor, Randy Jorgensen, said he looked into the revenue generated from the YWCA annual meeting in Saskatchewan this year, and said “they were charging $750 to $1000 per head, depending on whether you got the early bird or regular fee. At $150,000 they’re making over a $100,000 presumably on this.”
Jorgensen added that waiving the rental fee would basically be “the Town donating to a charity,” and that there are many other charities wanting the same thing, and emphasized the Town already provides them with a reduced rate.
“Our fees already reflect the taxpayers…donating to non-profit groups when they are renting our space,” he said.
Councillor, Penny Varney, indicated that the YWCA does a lot for the community with their many programs. She added, “This Town has to show that we are supporting the YWCA.”
Jorgensen added that majority of their members will be participating in the event via Zoom or otherwise remotely for next year’s event. He suggested that Council consider their other request to improve the internet at the Centennial Centre for their meeting instead, which will also improve the Town’s infrastructure.
Mayor, Heidi Lorenz, expressed that it would be a lack of fairness to other charities to waive fees for one group and not others. She indicated that many other charities, such as the Rotary Club, South Muskoka Minor Hockey, the Alex Kerswell Legacy Fundraiser, the Crohn’s Walk, Alzheimer's Support Group, and many more groups pay rental fees to use the Town’s facilities.
Lorenz indicated that they have a Terence Haight fund that charities can apply to for help with funds. She added, “I have a really hard time saying one group in this community is getting a freebie when nobody else is.”
Lorenz continued that although the Town supports the YWCA and appreciates the work they do, and they have received funding for many of their programs, “we can’t afford to offer our facilities for free for everyone.”
She said, “Unless we’re prepared to open the door and say no one has to pay for the space… That’s what we’re saying here – that some people get to use it for free. She added that “everyone is worthy of fee waivers,” however, the Town can’t afford it.
Morphy suggested that waiving the fee isn’t a loss of revenue. She added, “I just think our service organization deserves a little bit of our respect.”
Lorenz explained, “This is not about respect. We’re talking about fairness.”
Jorgensen reiterated that the annual YWCA event “is not a program they’re providing.” He added, “There’s no question we support the YWCA. They have applied through the Terence Haight many times for programs. Terence Haight guidelines say that the programs must benefit the people of Gravenhurst. This is actually benefitting people that are coming from outside of Gravenhurst.”
He continued that by waiving the fees the Town is basically giving them a subsidy which isn’t going towards the local YWCA, but rather groups outside of the region. “It’s all about fairness. We recognize all the wonderful work these organizations do. That’s why we have a reduced rate. I think it’s important to treat people fairly.”
The vote was 5 to 3, in favour of waiving the fees.