BARRY’S BAY – It looks as if the outdoor skating rink in Wilno will remain dormant for another year.
In a recorded vote on October 25, the roads, property and planning committee turned down the offer of accepting the rink from the current owners.
The rink itself has a head-scratching history and is likely the only outdoor rink in Renfrew County not owned by a municipality.
In 1972, an incorporated group called the Polish Canadian Pioneer Centre received the property in hopes to erect a museum containing Polish artifacts.
According to Mayor David Shulist, the group had no connection to the Wilno Heritage Society that exists today.
Somewhere along the way, an outdoor rink was built on the land instead. The Polish Canadian Pioneer Centre cancelled their corporate existence and was dissolved in 1982. Because of this, the rink should have been transferred to the St. Mary’s Catholic Church, as per the corporation’s mandate.
But, for some reason, the Sherwood, Jones and Burns Township authorized a lease agreement with the Polish Canadian Pioneer Centre on February 3, 1992 – almost a decade after the corporation was deemed dissolved.
For 20 years, the Wilno recreation committee took responsibility to ensure the rink was operating each year. The township would provide around $2,000 per year to offset operational costs.
The lease formally expired on November 1, 2012 and 29 days later, the Wilno recreation committee submitted a letter to the township informing them they would also no longer be in operation.
The Polish Canadian Pioneer Centre has since revived and now wants to transfer its only asset, the rink, to the township and officially dissolve. There is also a group of around 12 people in Wilno who have agreed to look after the rink.
“It looks like the municipality is in a position to probably save it,” David Shulist explained.
A report done by recreation and development community coordinator Paul Nopper indicates that in order to accept the rink, the township would have to pay to dissolve the corporation and assume the back taxes of the land.
But there’s more, the report said.
The yearly operational cost will be $10,300. Insurance is $2,000. The cost to dissolve the Polish Canadian Pioneer Centre is $2,500. A cost for building engineer inspection will cost upwards of $20,000. Other expenses, such as cost to remove the onsite building, cost to replace rink boards and more drives the initial cost anywhere from $101,800 to $205,800.
“We are only going to use this rink for eight weeks of the year,” Carl Bromwich explained. “I know the kids in Wilno would be satisfied with sitting outside with a bonfire going, as long as they have ice on the rink. So what we have here is a gold-plated idea on a beer diet…This is not a big deal here, yet it can be if we make it that way.”
But Linda Neuman said if the township accepts the rink, then it accepts the liability that comes with it. She said the township would have to do its due diligence to ensure it meets the current standards.
“Right off the bat, I understand that the holding tanks for the bathrooms are underneath the building,” Neuman said. “That right away, before we are going to lease it to anybody, I’m sure would have to come out of there.”
Read more in the October 30, 2013 issue of The Valley Gazette.