PICTOU – An outdoor park in financial trouble will need to come up with a better business plan before it gets any financial assistance from county council
County warden Ron Baillie said Monday during a finance committee meeting that the Lansdowne Outdoor Recreational Development Association has a debt of about $40,000 and it has requested funding help from the county.
Baillie said he and county CAO Brian Cullen recently met with a board member who told them that park curator David Leese hasn’t been paid in 2013 and the board has maxed out three credit cards in an effort to the keep the park operating.
“He went on to point out that they are just about bankrupt,” Baillie said. “He came to us. He was quick to say the county has helped out many times, but they are in dire straits at the moment. Getting a donation may extend their season, but they may not be able to reopen in the spring.”
Cullen said that as of the end of June, LORDA has a net income of $18,000, but this includes some restricted revenue that can only be used for capital purposes, not general revenue expenses.
He said this low revenue, combined with Leese’s pay and the $20,000 in losses so far this year brings the debt to about $40,000.
Baillie said the association is about to pay the interest on the three credit cards it has in its name, but nothing is being paid down on the principle.
Coun. Robert Parker said the park’s biggest problem is Leese’s refusal to charge people for the use of the park.
“You can’t keep an operation going if you are short on dollars,” he said. Mr. Leese does a lot of good work out there, but they can’t afford not to charge people. It doesn’t have to be a large amount, but suddenly you have income every day of the week. “
Parker said if council does decide to help LORDA, it must put stipulations on how the park is operated, including charging people to use it.
Coun. Chester Dewar said he has a problem with any business using credit cards to help keep it operating.
“We have to find out what is going on,” he said. “People have been generous, but how many people expected to go without pay. We are being unkind by feeding the problem. They have to do something about this.”
Baillie said the credit card debt equals about $19,000 and if county council granted enough funding to help cover this debt, it still wouldn’t be helping out the park’s cash flow problems.
He said the association said in the past that he can’t charge admission because of an agreement worked out with the Department of Natural Resources to stock the pond with fish.
However, Baillie said it is time that someone speak to Nova Scotia’s Natural Resources Minister Charlie Parker about the issue and see if there can be some kind of resolution to the problem.
Coun. David Parker said if the park continues operating as it is, there are only two options in its future. It can cease operations or become a municipal park similar to Trenton Park.
“There is no easy answer here,” he said. “What we are discussing tonight is a bandage. Mr. Leese is having difficulty seeing the big picture. He likes the model he is operating on, but the model he is operating on is going to lead to bankruptcy.”
Coun. Robert Parker suggested that council give LORDA $15,000 in the form a grant, but the board of directors must meet with council first to discuss how the money will be spent and determine if there is a business plan in place for the future.
In the end, council passed a motion that LORDA and a few representatives from council meet to review the county’s stipulations and if the terms are met, the issue can come back to council for a grant request.