Friday, August 28, 2009

West Boltonites Seek Rec Deal With Brome Lake

By Alex Roslin

Sherbrooke Record

August 5, 2009

Elina and her little brother Scott are feeling a little blue this summer. And it’s not because of all the rain.

They’d like to attend the Salamander Summer Day Camp at the Brome Lake community centre.

But they happen to live in West Bolton, and that means higher fees for out-of-towners—$840 for two kids at the full-time summer camp, compared to $240 for locals.

“It was just too much,” says their mom, Alice.

The Brome Lake Recreation and Community Services department charges non-residents the higher fees for the camp and year-round classes because 45 percent of its budget comes from the town of Brome Lake and its taxpayers.

Until last year, many instructors who gave classes at the community centre ignored the policy and charged out-of-towners the lower rate. But that changed last year when the community centre took over billing.

“The extra cost is prohibitive for many of the services in Knowlton,” says another West Bolton mom.

The change prompted some West Bolton families last summer to ask their town to try to work out a deal with Brome Lake that would allow them to pay the same as locals.

West Bolton already has such a deal with the city of Waterloo. It pays Waterloo $2,200 a year to allow residents to use Waterloo’s recreation services at the same rate as residents.

But many West Bolton residents say a deal with Knowlton makes more sense because that’s where they shop, bring kids to daycare and school and see family and friends.

“I don’t really know anyone who goes to Waterloo,” Alice says.

Alex Thibodeau, a dad of two young boys who lives in Knowlton and is building a house in West Bolton, agrees. “West Bolton residents spend almost all their money in Knowlton. We shop at the IGA and the SAQ and get our gas here. This is our town.”

Carrol Kralik, director general of the municipality of West Bolton, sympathizes. She said she contacted Brome Lake Recreation and Community Services last fall to try to work out a deal.

The response was a surprise, she said. Brome Lake asked for a $3,000 fee—36 percent more than Waterloo wanted—and still wanted to charge West Bolton residents the higher rates for services.

In other words, West Boltonites would be paying more, not less, Kralik said. “It didn’t make sense. They came back with an offer that was absolutely ridiculous.”

Brome Lake mayor Richard Wisdom said: “There is no way the town of Brome Lake is going to subsidize West Bolton. If you don’t want to build and do, you’re going to have to pay,” he said.

West Bolton didn’t want to pay the amounts discussed. They know the rates. They have to come up to bat.”

Johanne Morin, executive director of Brome Lake Recreation and Community Services, said she supports making a deal with West Bolton. “I think it would be a great idea. It would make it a lot easier for everybody.”

But she said recreation programs are costly. For example, she said the higher non-resident fees for the summer camp do not cover the program’s full cost.

Kralik said West Bolton is still open to a deal, but not at any cost. “Waterloo is out of the way, but it’s still a heck of a lot cheaper than the extra fee of going to Brome Lake. Their non-resident charges are outrageous.”

The spat has left some parents frustrated. “There has to be a synergy between West Bolton and here,” Thibodeau said.

Another West Bolton parent agreed, saying more participants in classes in Knowlton would allow more classes to be offered for both locals and out-of-towners and more customers for Knowlton businesses. “It’s a win-win for everyone.”

TAGS: Eastern Townships, Knowlton, West Bolton

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