By Tim Kalinowski
Council members discussed a draft of proposed long term lease agreement with the Redcliff Seniors’ Center at last Monday’s council meeting.
Under the proposed draft agreement, the Seniors would pay one dollar per year rent to the Town for the use of the building, assume all cleaning costs, pay no utilities and receive all revenue from hall rentals. The Town would still be the primary owner of the building and would continue to cover all maintenance work, external grass cutting, snow removal, and cover all utility costs.
Under the current agreement the Town has with the Seniors’, the Seniors’ pay $640 a month in rent which covers utilities and cleaning costs, and the town receives all revenue from hall rentals. If the draft proposal is accepted as is, the Town would assume more of a cost burden than it currently has.
Coun. Larry Leipert said he didn’t understand what benefit the town was getting under the new draft proposal, and why it was being brought forth to council in the first place.
“Obviously the utilities are going to go up when this carbon tax comes in. What is the benefit of this lease to the town? There must be some benefit to the town. What is it?” he asked.
Coun. Dwight Kilpatrick explained the proposed long term lease agreement was prompted by recent changes to Alberta’s CFEP (Community Facility Enhancement Program) grant system, which excludes government managed facilities from applying. CFEP grants provide help with the costs of major utility and infrastructure upgrades on municipally owned but externally managed buildings like halls and arenas.
“Right now the changes in CFEP grants, the town isn’t eligible to get any,” explained Kilpatrick. “So any time we do any repairs in there we can’t get CFEP grants for it. If they are actually the lease holders of that building they can (get the grants); because they are a (registered) group. So it could be advantageous to us if we’re trying to something that would qualify for a CFEP grant.”
That being said, Kilpatrick did not like the terms of the draft agreement as presented last Monday night.
“How come it went back to a dollar? For years we have tried to at least have them pay the utilities… I would be good with if they want to take over the building, but then they should have the utilities too.”
Coun. Chere Brown agreed with Kilpatrick, and further advocated for an increase in the Seniors’ monthly rent.
“I myself don’t agree with paying both the utilities and giving them all the revenue,” said Brown. “I think they should at least be paying their utilities. We can rent it to them for a dollar, but they pay for their utilities… I think Dwight is right. They are getting the full use of the facility. I have no problem with them handling the bookings and getting the revenue from that, but we are losing money on the rent they give us in how much we pay for utilities already. To me it seems, at the very least, it needs to go up a bit per month; so we are least getting some of that money back.”
Coun. Jim Steinke, who is a member of Seniors’ Center, said he was concerned increasing the monthly cost burden would do long term harm to the members who use it.
“What I am afraid of if there is too big a burden put on them, they would just shut it down because they can’t afford it anymore,” he said.
Steinke said while he agreed the draft lease agreement did not charge the Seniors’ enough, he did not think they should be on the hook for all the utility costs.
“If they could pay half of the utilities, I could understand that we probably be in the same boat as we are today,” Steinke said. “With paying at least part of the utilities, there would be a bit more onus on them to watch the utility bill. In the summer you won’t have the air conditioner cranked. In the wintertime you won’t have the furnace cranked.”
“But we’d also be losing that rental revenue,” Kim Dalton, Redcliff’s Director of Community Services, reminded councillors. He suggested council could ask for a greater cost breakdown to see what the total costs of running the Seniors’ Center entails before making a decision on the lease proposal.
The four councillors present agreed, and asked staff to bring back that cost breakdown to a future meeting where they could discuss the draft lease proposal again with full council.