Tuesday, Mar 21, 2017 06:00 am
We’re back to Square 1 on Tawatinaw … maybe Square 2 depending on your take.
It took a little more than a year (well, less actually if you take into account the fact lease payments were suspended last summer) for the vaunted 2015 $2.2 million, three-year, lease-purchase agreement between Westlock County and DK Consulting to hit the shredder.
The recent signing of an operator’s agreement between the county and DK means ratepayers are back to paying someone else to manage the facility, but we’ll get to that later.
Now this kind of arrangement is nothing new as a little over 10 years ago the volunteers who ran the site walked away, leaving the county to man the T-bar. Ultimately the municipality kept things status quo by hiring a private contractor to run the chalet, rental shop and lifts, while taking on all site maintenance costs. So, now what?
A few months ago on this very page one of our writers opined that the county had four options in regards to Tawatinaw: walk away, sell it outright, take over operations, or continue with some form of a lease/purchase agreement. The first two weren’t realistic, while county CAO Leo Ludwig is quoted in our Page 1 story saying the lease-purchase deal “was set up almost to fail.”
Taking back the hill was the only choice.
Tawatinaw is a recreation facility, just like the Rotary Spirit Centre, or the pool. It’s incumbent on municipalities to operate these facilities and the sad reality is that they never make money and rarely, if ever, even approach breaking even. So if you’re a ratepayer who cringes every time the phrase “recreation funding” is uttered, you’re probably not happy.
And while we won’t fault the county for salvaging some sort of deal, we can’t overlook the fact that they’re not saying how much it will cost.
We’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, for now, as Ludwig said he’s checking into whether they can, or can’t under privacy laws. That said, it’s incredible to think ratepayers won’t be told how much it’s costing. If the county were looking for an operator to run a campground, the contract wouldn’t be kept secret.
It’s perhaps fortuitous that this is happening while a municipal inspection is in the works as we speak. We hope that the county does the right thing and makes the financial details public.