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Cornwall freezes recreational facility fees while council looks at promoting more participation

Ramblers Soccer Club president Jonathan Gauthier, from right, treasurer Antoinette Goeseels and representative Scott Crawford speak with Cornwall Coun. Corey Frizzell following Wednesday’s meeting. Council voted to freeze its recreational facility fees for the next year while council looks at ways to promote more activity among residents.
Ramblers Soccer Club president Jonathan Gauthier, from right, treasurer Antoinette Goeseels and representative Scott Crawford speak with Cornwall Coun. Corey Frizzell following Wednesday’s meeting. Council voted to freeze its recreational facility fees for the next year while council looks at ways to promote more activity among residents. - Mitch MacDonald

CORNWALL, P.E.I. - A proposal for the Town of Cornwall to look at ways of reducing fees for its sports facilities drew some mixed reaction from council and the public Wednesday.

Council voted during Wednesday’s meeting to freeze its sports facilities and program fees for the next year while it looks at developing strategies to promote more recreational participation for all ages.

Coun. Corey Frizzell introduced the resolution after suggesting a motion last week to eliminate fees for its main minor sports user groups.

Frizzell said he later found out the town’s official plan does not allow completely eliminating fees, so he introduced a new resolution with a broader scope.

“We should look at user fees but also look at how else the town can support kids, and residents of all ages, in being active and healthy,” Frizzell told The Guardian, adding that he had heard about the issue from residents during the 2018 campaign. “The issue hasn’t gone away. If anything, concerns have gotten louder from residents.”

Although the decision was passed unanimously, it wasn’t without some debate.

Coun. Elaine Barnes said the resolution felt rushed while Coun. Jill MacIsaac said she felt a committee made of a handful of residents would not be a reflection of what the town’s larger population would want.

The issue will now be reviewed by committee of council, which will ultimately bring back recommendations for council for the 2020-2021 operating budget. The committee could also recommend a special committee be formed on the issue.

There was also some mixed opinion from the public.

Graham Hicken, who ran unsuccessfully against Mayor Minerva McCourt during the 2018 election, said he heard little about fees when he was canvassing.

“And when fees were brought up on sports fields, the general concern was we don’t want our property tax going up,” said Hicken, adding that the town’s role is to represent all of Cornwall. “If you’re going to freeze them for a year and then decrease them again… I’ll tell yas right now, if the taxes start going up, you better enjoy your four years because I don’t think the community is going to be very receptive.”

Scott Crawford, representing the Ramblers Soccer Club, supported the resolution and said the club has been under financial pressure in recent years.

“To the point where we’re having a strong discussion on what our future can be,” he said. “And it’s a shame because we’re the second largest association in P.E.I., with almost 700 youth involved in our association.

“If we’re having a hard time sustaining ourselves, it has a ripple effect through our community and our youth.”

Following the meeting, Crawford said the end of an agreement between the town and club in January 2017 resulted in field fees raising substantially for the club.

He said the resolution should not be just about user fees and that the club wanted to work collaboratively with the town in deciding on a long-term plan that would balance fees while respecting taxpayer’s investment into facilities.

“Because Cornwall, although we’re a town, we’re also a regional hub for provincial facilities,” he said.

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