Council considers curlers’ pleas

The city is giving the Whitehorse Curling Club another chance. With several young curlers looking on, city council deferred a vote on setting new lease agreements at the Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre.

The city is giving the Whitehorse Curling Club another chance.

With several young curlers looking on, city council deferred a vote on setting new lease agreements at the Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre.

That gives the curling club at least a month to negotiate a better rate for its lease.

The city had been planning to raise the rent it charges the club for use of the Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre by 113 per cent over the next decade, from $30,000 to $63,929.

“Entering into this lease agreement will push the club to the breaking point,” Mark Evans, president of the curling club, told city council last week.

If the city refused to renegotiate its terms, Evans warned that the club might not sign it.

This week, council agreed to go back to the negotiating table.

“It’s possible that council made a mistake,” said Coun. Betty Irwin. “Gee, wouldn’t that be awful if we had to admit that we made a mistake and we want to make it right?”

Council had directed the planning department to recover 50 per cent of the costs of all the buildings it runs. To keep it fair, the city based the lease rate on the amount of space used by each renter.

The curling club uses 66 per cent of the recreational centre, so its rent would double over the lease’s 10-year term.

The Whitehorse Curling Club was in pretty good financial shape. For several recent years it posted significant surpluses. But last year, with bar and rental fees down, the club ended up $12,000 in the red.

Because the curling club was in the middle of installing a new board of directors, neither council nor the negotiating team was aware of the financial bind the club was in.

The curling club has $200,000 squirreled away in a contingency fund for capital expenses. But it would rather not dip into this money to cover its operations, unless it had to, said Evans.

“That may have to happen if we enter into a lease that is unaffordable for the club,” he said.

These savings may seem like a lot of money. But, as the club’s annual expenses run around $800,000, “it’s probably not really enough for what a contingency fund should be, if this was a profitable business,” said Evans.

When the city goes back to the negotiating table, Coun. Dave Austin said that he wants to see full financial disclosure from the club. “If all the cards are on the table, we can make a game out of it,” he said.

In putting forward the motion to defer the vote on the leases, Coun. Ranj Pillai said he was hopeful that an amicable agreement could be reached.

“Will the curling club soldier on?” he asked. “Probably. But I think that the damage to the relationship is going to be horrible, and I don’t think that’s what we’re here to do.

“I think we can take 30 days to take a breath … get everyone back at the table and work something out.”

His motion won support from all the councillors, except Florence Roberts.

“In the last 10 years we have gotten to be the giver of everything to everyone in the city,” she said. “The city is finally saying, ‘Look, you guys, are going to have to pay your fair share.’”

“If all we’re asking for is a 50 per cent recovery cost, then how much is that little piece of the rock that you have up there really worth to rent out?”

While she didn’t support the motion, Roberts did support the possibility of paying the curling club for the work it’s already doing to manage the Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre.

“If they get their act together and put in a contract proposal together to manage the facility up there, then possibly they can get part of their rental back in payment from the city in management fees,” she said. “To me, that’s worth its weight in gold.”

Council decided to defer the vote on the lease agreement for at least a month, but with the majority of staff responsible for those negotiations away on vacation, it could take a little bit longer to work out a deal.

Contact Josh Kerr at

joshk@yukon-news.com

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