It’s an election year, so perhaps the tougher, more challenging stance taken this week by Woolwich councillors can be explained by the prospect of facing voters in a few short months. Whatever the reason, it’s a welcome turn of events.
It’s uncommon for council to vote contrary to recommendations brought forward by staff. Oh, it happens, but it’s certainly not the norm. Yet this week councillors were in a contrarian mood.
They voted against a proposal that would let a Waterloo company handle advertising at township arenas. That one was an easy decision: the deal was clearly a bad one. Standing to gain at most 15 per cent of revenues, the township can easily make the $7,200 budgeted for this year by going it alone or in conjunction with local user groups. Doing it that way will ensure worthy organizations benefit financially and the township gets a good cut: the advertising will be in municipal facilities, after all.
Under the deal floated by staff, the only way user groups would get even a small amount of funding would be if the township got none. No, thank you.
In a related issue – the Elmira Sugar Kings are interested in the advertising options – councillors also displayed some support for the Junior B hockey club.
The team is facing an additional cost of $10,000 a year to rent space at the Woolwich Memorial Centre, an expense that didn’t exist at the old arena. While the township has maintained it was clear extra costs were coming because of the new facility, nowhere in the planning process was a rental rate indicated.
Councillors were sympathetic this week, directing staff to come up with a lower-priced alternative.
The Kings have felt put upon of late. They pay the highest ice rental rates in the league. No other team is expected to pay for dressing room space. The move to the Woolwich Memorial Centre has brought a host of new hoops to jump through, including constraints on the sale of alcohol, a revenue generator for the team.
Given that the team is really the anchor of the new Dan Snyder Memorial Arena, it would be a good idea for the township and the hockey club to form a better relationship.
Moving out onto the roads, councillors also balked at plans to repave Maple Street, which runs alongside the new township hall. A quick inspection of the route shows it’s not really in need of new asphalt, certainly not ahead of a multitude of really bad roads that are a hazard to drivers and their vehicles.
As Coun. Mark Bauman noted, the project, while small, is a clear case of bad optics: the township would be seen as sprucing up the area around its administration building even as residents elsewhere complain about the state of the roads around their homes.
Putting the project on the back burner makes sense.
Tuesday night’s meeting also presented another issue where a commonsense decision would be welcomed by residents: the plan for a gravel pit immediately east of Conestogo. From Woolwich’s perspective, the answer is an easy “no,” despite the fact the Ontario Municipal Board and Ministry Natural Resources, with a history of overriding local wishes and the public interest, is likely to rubberstamp the project.