Original Published on Jul 07, 2022 at 19:55
By Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Village of Burk’s Falls council is reluctantly going against the recommendation of its arena manager and will remove the ice so that the Armour Ryerson Burk’s Falls Agricultural Society can hold its fall fair on Sept. 5 – Labour Day Monday.
During the June meeting of council, arena manager Graham Smith recommended strongly against taking out the ice for the one day event because of the tremendous cost involved.
That included the cost of removing the ice, then putting it back in, plus the lost revenue from ice users while the ice is not available.
Although the society has held the fair on the arena floor for many years on Labour Day Monday, the event was cancelled the last two years because of COVID.
During this period Smith was hired and the 2022 fall fair is his first experience with the event.
Smith suggested alternatives to council including the society putting the vendors and entertainment in other parts of the arena building or holding the event outside the building.
The society especially opposed the outdoor suggestion citing unpredictable weather as an obstacle for vendors and the entertainment.
To resolve the matter once and for all, the town council held a special meeting Thursday morning following a meeting Wednesday night between members of the agricultural society, Coun. John Wilson and Coun. Jarvis Osborne.
“It was a very hostile meeting,” Osborne said of the Wednesday meeting he and Wilson attended on behalf of the council.
“There was name calling.”
Osborne said despite not liking the tone of the society members, he came to the conclusion that for this year “it’s absolutely” too late for the society to hold the event other than on the arena floor meaning the ice would have to come out.
Wilson agreed given the fall fair is only two months away.
But he questioned “the value of insults and harsh words” when the goal was to help meet the needs of the agricultural society.
“It was reinforced numerous times that we were talking to figure out how to benefit all users,” said Wilson adding that meant the agricultural society and ice users.
However, Wilson said the meeting “wasn’t a total waste of time” because he said the agricultural society got a better sense of why the town council was concerned about removing the ice for a one day event.
During the special council meeting on Thursday, Mayor Cathy Still said she “wasn’t happy about the insults” the council members had to endure.
Still noted the cost to remove the ice and reinstall it will be more than $30,000.
The arena is a shared facility with the Township of Armour and the Township of Ryerson and Still said both municipalities are on board with removing the ice for the fall fair and have agreed to share that expense.
Still did say that the ice removal process will result in a “significant cost to the municipal building” at a time when it faces expenses of about half a million dollars in the next five years because of projects like roof repairs and coping with a dehumidifier system.
The vote to keep the ice in was razor thin with Osborne and Wilson in favour while Councillors Rex Smith and Lisa Morrison wanted the ice to stay put.
That left it up to the Mayor to break the impasse and Still agreed the ice would come out.
But Still made it clear this is the last time the ice will be removed for the fall fair.
Looking to the future, Wilson suggested that perhaps the next town council may want to create a committee of council or have the entire council meet with the agricultural society after this year’s fall fair “to come to an equitable conclusion for 2023.”
“Rather than leaving it just up to (the agricultural society) to figure it out, I believe we have a huge part to work with them to come to a solution that’s acceptable to both of us and hopefully the conversation of the ice having to be removed doesn’t come up again,” Wilson said.
Wilson added the eventual solution also has to consider the interests of the ice users.
This item reprinted with permission from The Nugget, North Bay, Ontario