The Township of Wellesley is waiving rental fees for the Paradise and District Lions Club at the St. Clements Community Centre, despite the organization not technically meeting the township’s criteria.
Councillors meeting this week opted to forego the township’s typical policy on fees for the Lions annual summer camp, reasoning that the program served a public good within the township.
The decision made Tuesday evening will see the organization spared the full $7,500 in rental fees for the community centre over a 15-day period this summer.
Under the township’s current policy, the Lions were only eligible for a 30 per cent discount on their fees. A full waiver of the $7,500 would require that the summer camp be free for participants, but in 2018 the program was priced at $150 per week.
The Lions Club, however, noted that their program is run on a cost-recovery model, and since starting up in 2015 had produced a net loss for the community group of $4,700.
“The Lions Club usually ends up having to help support this. It’s usually we’re running at a loss,” Lions member Mark Koenig told councillors. The group also provided support to those unable to afford the camp fees, adding to its losses.
“We also do this in regards to families in need within our community, for children who can’t afford to go to camp, and we will cover those costs,” added Koenig. “We’ve had four such instances since we’ve been running [the camp]; the Lions just cover those costs for kids. To give them something to do, to belong to a camp, to be able to go to school and say, ‘I went to camp too. I was part of the group.’”
Koenig noted that the program gave children in the township an outlet during the summer months, while also creating employment opportunities for the community’s youth.
“The other neat side of it is that it was also designed to help make employment opportunity within the community for teenagers to be able to have a job within their community,” he said.
The cost to the taxpayer, meanwhile, to open the community centre to the Lions camp free of charge were minimal, suggested township staff.
“There’d be a little more hydro use each day than if the hall was sitting empty, but that would be the economic impacts of it,” said Danny Roth, the township’s director of recreation.
Councillors were keen not to create a precedent, but said exceptions could be made depending on the circumstances.
“Sometimes we have to look at the whole picture, and we can sometimes look at the exceptions to the rule,” said Coun. Herb Neher, who was supportive of the Lions’ efforts. “And this is a community function, and do we want to make an exception in this case because it does service our community.”
“I don’t think it really sets a precedent,” added Mayor Joe Nowak. “Because we deal with these things on an individual basis. Although it does open the door for similar types of requests, but I guess that door is always open isn’t it?”