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Township agrees to waive facility fees for Starlight Gala

by Patrick Raftis

MAPLETON - Council has agreed to waive all fees for the use of the PMD Arena Complex for the Palmerston and District Hospital Foundation’s 17th annual Starlight Gala on May 27.

Council passed a resolution approving the fee waiver as a donation after hearing from PDH Foundation development officer Dale Franklin on Feb. 7.

Franklin addressed council in response to direction given to township staff at the Jan. 10 meeting to report on ways to minimize costs to the foundation through operational adjustments and limitations on staff time and setup time dedicated to the gala.

Council passed a resolution on Dec. 13 implementing a policy eliminating fee reductions and waivers commonly provided to help subsidize facility users, particularly those raising funds for community projects.

At the Jan. 10 meeting, where a request for a fee waiver for the gala was presented to council, Mapleton CAO Brad McRoberts estimated facility charges for the event, including about a week for set-up time, would be around $5,000.

Council has traditionally waived fees for the event when it is held in Mapleton every third year.  

The Town of Minto, which hosts the event at arenas in Palmerston and Harriston when it is not in Mapleton, also regularly waives fees for the gala.

On Feb. 7 McRoberts presented a report indicating the fees could be reduced to $1,565 by limiting after-hours access for set up to nine hours spread over four days, at a rate of $30 per hour, with full rental of $995 charged for the day of the event.

“We have a lot of sympathy for our municipalities, I’m a taxpayer in this municipality as well,” Franklin told council.

“But when we are considered in the same breath as service organizations and other charities, I just wanted to have a little bit of time to clarify how we feel that we are different.”

She continued, “The Palmerston and District Hospital Foundation has only one mandate and our mandate is to make sure that our local hospital is well equipped and viable for many years to come.

“We actually don’t have any ability to make a decision as to where our funds are spent and that’s one of the main differences we have between the foundation and our service organizations that do wonderful work in our community.”

Franklin said the foundation’s mandate is to make sure the local hospital has all the equipment needed by health care professionals working at the facility.

“Our vision is to create good health care for every member our municipality and the catchment area of our hospital. Our well-equipped and viable hospital is very attractive to industry and contributes to economic development. It also contributes to doctor recruitment.”

Franklin explained the foundation fills a funding role not covered by government.

“The province does not fund any equipment for hospitals. If you are at the hospital and someone’s using a piece of equipment on you, trust me our local folks have bought it for you.”

Attractive to industry

Franklin pointed out the hospital’s 24-hour emergency department, diagnostic imagery equipment and day surgery facilities are attractive features industries consider when deciding where to locate.

“It’s no secret that one of the first questions an industry asks is - ‘What is health care like in your community?’ - and without the Palmerston and District Hospital Foundation we wouldn’t have a TG Minto and TG Minto doesn’t just hire its staff from within the town of Palmerston. There are many Mapleton residents who are employed by industries such as that,” Franklin stated, adding the local agriculture industry also “relies heavily,” on the hospital.

Franklin pointed out the hospital gala involves 80 to 100 volunteers, plus over 40 sponsors and about 275 businesses and individuals who donate items for the live and silent auctions.

“This is a very well-supported initiative. Our communities actually really support our gala and it would be wonderful if we could share with our volunteers and our donor base that even with all of your constraints we can find a bit of grace for the one organization that actually serves every single resident.”

Councillor Dennis Craven stated he supports a full exemption  from fees.

“Myself and my family have used the Palmerston hospital a number of times. Thank God it was there,” said Craven. “This is our hospital. We save lives, we welcome new lives into the world and if this municipality is so greedy and so in need of money that we can’t support our hospital then, really, God help us.”

Councillor Lori Woodham pointed to a $9.4 million contribution from the County of Wellington to three local hospitals, including PDH, over the next three years, stating, “So, yes, councillor Craven we all do support our hospitals. Our county tax, which we all pay, helps support this hospital also.”

Franklin explained the county donation goes toward major redevelopment projects, not equipment.

In 2014, Wellington County Council approved the funding,  which includes $5 million for construction of the new Groves hospital in Aboyne, and $4.4 million split between Louise Marshall Hospital in Mount Forest and Palmerston and District Hospital for upgrades to emergency rooms and renovations to house pharmaceutical dispensing units.

Woodham noted the council typically includes $15,000 in the township’s annual budget for donations and suggested the funds to support waiver of the gala facility fees be taken from that account.

“So I do support our mandate that we do not waive fees. However … I do not see any reason why we, once every three years, can’t put it in our budget,” to donate an amount equivalent to the fees, she stated.

A motion to support the staff recommendation to reduce the fees to $1,565 was defeated.

A resolution to waive the fees for the event passed unopposed.

 

February 17, 2017

 
 

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