The organizer of a petition opposing steep increase in user fees for recreation in North Huron predicted new costs will lead to the closure of the North Huron Wescast Community Complex.

The complex is home to a pool, ice rink, squash courts, fitness centre, and meeting rooms.

Joanne Willard of Wingham urged residents to gather at town hall Monday at 6 p.m. as council votes on the new fee structure.

“We moved to Wingham when we retired and moved back home,” said Willard. “The rec facilities, the pool in particular and the fitness center, were key. One of three boxes that were ticked when we moved here, and this is more than disappointing.”

Willard said council had the chance to raise the tax rate a reasonable amount in its last budget, but instead decreased taxes.

“They lowered the taxes. They were looking at a 20 per cent increase. I was at the council meeting where they, all of the town council members said ‘okay, what can you accept as an increase for the tax rate during the budget talks?'” she continued. “Everybody was around six per cent. It was a good discussion, but then they lowered them. So they had a perfect opportunity. Everybody who walks around and breathes around here knows that everything went up 10 per cent. So why aren’t they husbanding their duties better?”

“It was just a nonsensical event. It doesn’t make sense,” she added. “And now I don’t know what the agenda is, but now they’re stuck. And I guess they’re doing a knee jerk reaction. It’s like death by 1,000 cuts.”

For example, the current fee for a family of four to use the pool and gym is $1,296 annually. North Huron is looking at increasing that cost to $4,500. An adult pool pass would jump from $300 to $600. A gym pass would jump from $504 to $750. There will be no pass to the entire facility. Instead, separate passes will be required for each amenity.

“They are out of reach for people and this will close the facility. That’s the end game. This is not, you know, we’re going to see how much we can get out of taxpayers. They should have raised the tax rate instead of decreasing it when they had the opportunity last time,” she reiterated. “A family of four they said that they couldn’t come. They love coming here. The father comes here and trains with his boys. And then, Friday nights they come here for entertainment with their family and swim.”

Willard stressed council should gradually increase rates and stop reducing taxes so they can pay for municipal services.

“It just has to be reasonable. People will accept anything as long as it’s reasonable, and it doesn’t seem to be a hidden agenda, which is, they will cause the closure of these facilities and services for sure,” she emphasized.

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