There is a council meeting coming up in Huntsville – only it won’t be in Huntsville. The meeting has been moved to the Port Sydney Community Hall in an effort, I suspect, to reach out to the people of Port Sydney.
It might have been considered good optics by some around the council table, to make the workings of the municipality more accessible to the entire community by moving it around occasionally. However, by moving it, they could in fact make things harder to access for the average person in Huntsville. By that, I mean either getting down to Port Sydney or perhaps being able to watch it on Cogeco.
While the agenda hasn’t been released yet, it’s anticipated that a report will be coming back to council about the fate of the “culture station”. At last month’s meeting, Mayor Scott Aitchison sent back all of the parties involved with the purpose of coming up with another proposal after staff recommended that the town raise the yearly rent from $1 to $9,600 a year.
What’s even more preposterous than a recommendation of a 9600 per cent rent increase for a community group’s use of a piece of un-rentable space, is the town’s flip-flop two days later when they opted to rent out Club 55 to another community group for $2 a year.
Of course, there is also the issue of no instruction from the mayor or council as to what to come back to the table with. Clearly, the user groups want to know what appetite council has for a deal – whether the Chamber agrees or not – otherwise this could be a giant exercise in wasting council’s and the Chamber’s time.
The mayor should be stepping up and leading on this issue rather than leaving it to the staff and the user groups to sort out. Staff should be getting their direction from him, unless he thinks that a recommendation of a 9600 per cent increase is worth the paper it’s written on and if he does then it’s going to be a long four years with a lot of unnecessary drama around the table.
In the arts community, a few cynics have expressed their concern that the move to Port Sydney is one way to keep people away from the meeting. However, I expect that the media will be there in full-force to report on the issue. TVCogeco has confirmed that they will be there to record the meeting and will air it the following day.
I hope that when the issue is up for discussion that council will take a moment to look at previous lease agreements with all user groups and come up with an equitable deal. It was proven on the weekend that the arts are very much alive in Huntsville.