Falher council aids rising arena cost

Facing a steep increase in utility costs at the Falher Memorial Arena, the Smoky River Minor Hockey Association has received financial relief from the Town of Falher.
SRMHA vice-president Cindy Levesque addressed Falher council at its regular meeting May 6, seeking support for the cost of utilities for the 2001-2002 season under the agreement the SRMHA has for operating the arena.
Costs for the hockey season reached $42,800, up dramatically from the amount of around $30,000 to $35,000 the association was anticipating.
Levesque was accompanied by president Lise Cote, secretary Sue Henley, and past-president Gil Owens.”It’s a shock,” said Levesque. “Our board feels that we can’t pay more than $30,000.”
The year before, costs were $25,000.
“From $25,000 to $42,800 is quite a jump,” said Levesque.
Presenting financial statements, she told council that the minor hockey association is operating efficiently and keeping fees at a minimal to get maximum use of the arena.
Understanding the unpredictable sharp increase in utility costs and the association’s efficient financial status, council agreed to pay the costs exceeding $30,000, which would run about $13,000.
Under contract with the municipality to operate the arena for the past seven years, SRMHA had no projections that utility costs would rise so sharply in the past few years.
Levesque said the association board wants to continue to operate the arena. Currently, the SRMHA has 3.5 years remaining in a five-year contract.
SRMHA further asked council about the future of the arena, as several board members said rumors have been heard that council plans to close the arena.
“It’s never been discussed around the council table that the arena will close,” responded Mayor Margaret Tardif.
“We have no intentions of closing the arena, and the arches are not moving.”
In further discussing the future of the arena, Town Administrator Gerard Nicolet said that a deficit of $65,000 is expected for this year, and $41,000 for 2002-2003.
He noted that for a town of its size, Falher has a very high deficit for recreational facilities, with a current deficit of $126,000 in a budget of $715,000.
With a lot of players from outside the Falher town, SRMHA said it has approached the Municipal District of Smoky River to help fund the facility that is used by many of its residents.
“The MD is not going to give any money to the arena,” said Levesque. “They’re not going to give it.”
She noted that the MD council appears to be more willing to fund recreation if it were a regional facility.
Council agreed that funding support from neighboring districts who use the facility would be cooperative.
“We’d like to reduce that deficit and share costs with users,” Mayor Tardif told the delegation.
“We’re one of the only areas where rural taxpayers don’t support funding for recreation,” she said.
“It’s just unfortunate that some of the outlying areas aren’t chipping in with the costs,” said Councillor Philippe Dube.
After the delegation departed, council further discussed the next approach, to seek funding from the Smoky River district.
Rather than just meet the MD council as a Falher delegation, council agreed to approach McLennan council to form a larger delegation, since MD residents also use McLennan’s H.W. Fish Arena without any funding support.
“Everything has to go regional and has to be reviewed for recreation,” said Councillor Wade Nicolet.
“You’re going to nickel-and-dime residents and municipalities to death.”