User fee bylaw addition back to committee for consideration

By Merna Emara
Staff Writer

The user fee bylaw addition is going back to the Community Services Executive Committee for reconsideration after most council members agreed consider other options.

The bylaw would charge user groups for events held at the Townshend Theatre to cover the cost of hiring contract vaccination proof checking screeners, according to the report submitted to council by Aaron Bisson, recreation and culture manager.

“This additional fee is necessary to cover the additional costs the town will incur due to the new provincial mandate for vaccine proof to attend event space and theatres,” the report states. “The Town cannot allow the users/renters to perform this service and do not have the staff internally to provide the service, thus an outside contractor will need to be obtained.”

Bisson said the direction of the health unit is that the facility owner, being the Town of Fort Frances, has to provide the screening services.

The rate for this service will be set at $40 per hour.

Many members of council said this item should go back to the committee to reconsider other ways to avoid adding this fee to user groups.

Coun. Mike Behan said the committee could look into the chances that either the town uses unallocated COVID funding to cover the expense or the town’s theatre reserves to cover that expense.

“These user groups are really important to our community and I’d hate to see them having to cover this cost,” Behan said.

This however is a time-sensitive item, as Tour de Fort will be using the theatre for their performance in November.

Coun. Douglas Judson said that the town’s core user groups of the theatre have not been consulted on this and they would like an opportunity to provide their input.

“I think that not making any decision is really prejudicial to the group of volunteers in our community that are doing a lot of work to bring recreation and culture to that asset and to Fort Frances,” Judson said.

“It is adding a significant cost base to their operation. I’m a little concerned about kicking the can on this. Personally, I would like to see us eat these costs.”

Dawn Galusha, town treasurer, said an option would be that the town pays for COVID screeners and having any deficit at the end of the 2021 year be covered with COVID funding.