Wawa Council to Further Consider Potential Arena Ice Fee Increase

Wawa Municipal Council is taking more time to consider a potential fee increase for arena ice.

Speaking during last night's Corporate Planning Committee meeting, Community Services and Tourism Director Alex Patterson explained that he was asked to prepare a fee increase recommendation, noting there hadn't been an increase "in some time".

Patterson stated it was decided the fee should be "reflective" of costs for service but still comparable to other communities - phasing in increases over time - adding staff researched and compared fees from a wide range of northern communities - both smaller and larger than Wawa, though weighted to reflect similarities or differences.

The recommendation was a $5 an hour increase each year for four years - starting in the 2020-21 season - with Council to review it at the end of that period.

Councillors Mitch Hatfield and Pat Tait both stated they disliked the idea of setting out four years of increases at one time, preferring yearly reviews, though Patterson noted the recommendation was written in such a way that Council would be finalizing the increases on a yearly basis - when approving the municipal schedule of fees - using the four year plan as a "guideline" from which they could deviate due to factors such as cost of living or costs for service, among others - that could mean Council deciding not to increase the fee that year or to increase it substantially more, if they wished.

Mayor Ron Rody first commented that he dislikes the idea of giving user groups "one year notice" about fee increases, stating he was not prepared to honour that - later questioning whether that would be reasonable for other services - and he went on to call the lack of fee increase in recent years a "gross mistake", suggesting the Municipality should instead substantially increase fees first - possibly to the $65 or $68 an hour range, similar to communities such as Marathon - then move to increases based on the cost of living.

Rody also noted Sault Ste. Marie had substantially higher fees - touting a figure of $135 - and wondered why the city can get away with such high fees for people such as teachers and police officers - who he said would be paid the same as in Wawa - though he did emphasize he wasn't calling for Wawa to raise fees as high as the Soo.

While Council did vote in favour of officially receiving the report, the recommendation itself was not scheduled for a vote last night.

The idea's expected to come back to Council at a later date, as Mayor Rody noted he wanted a decision made by Christmas.