FALL RIVER: The treasurer for the LWF Ratepayers Association (LWFRA) welcomes a request by the local councillor for an audit by HRM on where the surplus money they collect goes.
Barry Dalrymple was responding to news that Councillor Steve Streatch had asked HRM Finance to do an audit on the LWFRA, who distributes area rate taxes from residents in the Lakeview-Windsor Junction-Fall River. The Windsor Junction Community Centre (WJCC) diversifying funding sources has allowed the LWFRA to return to the tradition of grant making, which began three years ago.
“The thing that the area rate has supported has never changed, and the surplus is very recently new,” he said. “Up until three years ago, the area rate for the LWFRA was in debt. This is a new thing that there are monies accumulating.
“However, it’s always been that the money from the area rate is to be used from grants, in particular for rec-type activities, in these communities,” said Dalrymple. “Nowhere does it say that there is a hard boundary on a map. It says to support the community peoples of those areas.:
Dalrymple said the LWFRA is okay with Streatch asking HRM Finance to do an audit of their own.
“We welcome any audit because it will show the fabulous work that’s being done by the community members,” he said. “It will show that the community is now doing everything properly and the way it should be.”
He said when he was the councillor for six or seven years ago, both he and the LWFRA board had asked the HRM for an audit. They were turned down. HRM provided the reasoning as it’s purpose was to only collect the area rate on behalf of residents, and to administer the money out as requested by the community.
The LWFRA hired Colin Barrow for the independent audit and they have had internal audits by certified chartered accountants to ensure all of the things are being done correctly.
Dalrymple said the only time Streatch has spoken to the LWFRA was when they invited him to a meeting, and at that meeting they offered to put him on every monthly meeting agenda to speak. According to Dalrymple, he declined that.
He said the area rate has existed in the LWFRA communities for more than 40 years, and one that supports some things that HRM is supposed to do and has never done. He said the WJCC gets TBA percent while another TBA percentage goes to Lakeview.
“It is used to enhance services and programs for our children and families that HRM does not do,” he said. “There are 35-40 youth employed at the WJCC in day camps and lifeguards. HRM doesn’t pay that. There’s 35-40 kids who umpire minor baseball. There’s 80 youth jobs being supported by this area rate. HRM certainly doesn’t do that kind of thing.”
Dalrymple said he considers it a “tremendous insult to the board” that Streatch hasn’t come to the volunteer board and ask the questions, and then if he weren’t satisfied at least tell them why he’s asking for an audit.
In his personal opinion, Dalrymple has a gut-feeling why that has not happened. When asked if he thought it may have something to do with not liking some of the members on the board, Dalrymple nodded it was.
“I believe, yes in absence of any other reasonable reason, yes that’s why,” he said. “I don’t see the point in attacking community boards and disrespecting volunteers.”
Dalrymple said if the LWFRA area rate was eliminated, the impact and reach would be not just in the LWFRA area.
“If you get rid of the area rate, the WJCC probably closes its ground to Lakeview and Fall River residents, and then have to charge horrendous fees to Windsor Junction residents,” said Dalrymple. “It would be the death knell for the WJCC.
“Once that closes, 80 youth jobs are gone. It also ends minor baseball. I won’t be looking after it without those two fields and HRM only owns one field in this entire area. Minor baseball of over 600 kids collapses. McDonald Sports Park, if there’s no use of the ball field therefore the monies associated with the field stops, so it probably closes.
“It would have far-reaching and massive affects on every community in this area, not just those served by the LWFRA area rate. The funds from the area rate go far beyond that.”