Taxpayers certainly appreciate politicians being careful about spending. But Pictou County council’s handling of a $1,000 grant denied to the local Junior A hockey team deserves a closer look.
After the council’s finance committee had first approved the modest sum to Weeks Crushers, the reversal was made at Monday’s regular council meeting. The about-turn divided council – some members expressed disappointment. But a couple of councillors had received calls from residents concerned about giving money to a “private organization.”
And that’s understandable. Some people will have a problem with it. But taken in context, all the items receiving funds from the public purse that taxpayers disagree on – you could fill a book.
County council, through its recreation funding, does grant requests from other sports teams. They give money toward events in the area that attract visitors.
In comparison, New Glasgow town council recently approved $7,500 in sponsorship to the Crushers – this to a team that has noted a financial strain in recent years. Last season the organization showed a deficit of $25,000.
Officials have said without ways to make up for the loss, the team might have to consider other options looking toward the future.
This team could easily be called the biggest single sports attraction in the county – and at the Pictou County Wellness Centre.
As councillors supporting the grant noted, the Crushers on a Thursday night can typically attract 700-800 fans to the centre, more during playoffs.
On the nay side, Coun. Peter Boyles, one of those who’d received calls of concern, offered the comment that the coach makes $75,000. We can only surmise the councillor is suggesting by this that the team is rolling in dough.
But the figure is fictional. Team officials have responded saying the salary is more like half that amount.
In other words, in discussing the issue, councillors could conceivably have based their decision, at least partly, on misinformation – mere hearsay.
Coun. David Parker said they weren’t provided with clarification of financial figures by the team. Well, they didn’t ask, according to Crushers execs. New Glasgow did make such a request – and were given those numbers.
Councillors in favour of the grant made reference to these young athletes as ambassadors for Pictou County – both at home and on the road. The Weeks organization has been great in getting these young men out in the community, helping with projects, participating in charitable events – providing a role model for local youth.
If the unthinkable were to happen: the Crushers organization, due to financial strain, felt forced to fold, or possibly move to a new home, the loss would be felt by more than hockey fans.
The team is a big customer at the Pictou County Wellness Centre, considering games and ice time booked. That centre already posts a huge deficit each year. If this team leaves, that hole is going to get a lot deeper.
Team executive have said, despite the financial woes, $1,000 won’t be what makes or breaks them.
Indeed, this isn’t about a thousand bucks. It’s about moral support for the team.