BARRY’S BAY – The heads of three local groups say the community will suffer if a 300 per cent rental fee price hike is imposed this April.
This month, groups that utilize the Paul J. Yakabuski Community Centre received a letter from the Township of Madawaska Valley informing them that rental fees were going up significantly. For most, it meant that a typical $25 or $50 weekly payment would jump to $200 per week.
Representatives from three different groups attended the heritage, parks and recreation meeting on February 23 to ask the township to reconsider the significant hike.
The committee said the increase was a result of reviewing the rates for other renters of the buildings and setting the group rates accordingly.
For example, someone who wanted to rent the upstairs lounge during the weekdays would be charged $120 (including HST) whereas a non-profit group would pay $50 or
$40 for that same room, depending on if the group charges registration.
“It’s about cost recovery for us,” Mayor David Shulist said.
Harry ‘Buster’ Brown from Buster Brown Step Dancing and Fiddle Instruction started the discussion.
He began by presenting a letter to the committee from 10-year-old Regan Yaraskavitch from Palmer Rapids. She has been taking Brown’s lessons for several years and has enjoyed them.
“Buster Brown is a dancing idol to me and my other students, and if you saw him dance the way he does you’d be blown away too,” Yaraskavitch explained.
She pleaded with the committee to reconsider their decision.
“I’d also like to add when you increase the rental rates parents can’t pay for the child’s activity because it’s too expensive,” Yaraskavitch said. “I know for a fact you always encourage kids to get involved with sports, but how are they supposed to play sports when their parents can’t pay?”
Brown, 61, came to the community 30 years ago, when he was asked by the Barry’s Bay recreation committee to come teach at the arena. He began paying a nominal weekly fee some time ago, and has been currently paying $50 per week.
But he was shocked when he opened the letter from council, which said the rates would go up effective April 1.
“When I first got this letter, I was totally upset, because all of the little faces that I had to imagine that I was going to have to go to and face and say, ‘Sorry, I can’t be there for you,’” he said.
Brown teaches step dancing to children from all over the Valley. He said the arena is the perfect location for local kids, where he has about 23 registrants.
“No question about it, that’s where it belongs,” he said. “If I’m forced to put it someplace else, then I have to, but I think that’s wrong and that would be a shame.”
The letter also stipulated that Brown would face a 25 per cent surcharge because he is a non-resident. Brown admitted making around $240 a week.
“If I paid $40 for gas and gave you $200, I am making nothing,” he said. “It’s going to cost me money… I never became a rich man out of doing this, but I am rich in what I do.”
Mayor David Shulist said perhaps it is the registrants that will have to bear some of the costs.
“If you do leave the area, people will have to travel from here to go to another area and spend money on gas,” Shulist explained. “I really feel that the people that are registered may have to take some of the costs in here, not just yourself.”
Councillor Sylvie Yantha suggested waving the extra fees.
“It’s wrong to do it in the middle of the season and I would like to say that you should have the same price for the remainder of the season, and I would like to have another kick at the can,” Yantha suggested. “Maybe we did raise it too much.”
Mayor Shulist called a vote, and the committee voted unanimously to let Brown continue his lessons at the same fee. The committee also agreed to review the rates.
“We’re all in favour, sir,” Shulist said. “Keep on dancing.”
This story continues in the March 1st Issue of The Valley Gazette.