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Town council agrees to $70,000 increase for community events

As part of 2024 budget deliberations, town council has agreed to fund an additional $70,000 for special events in Amherstburg.

A total of $50,000 was added to the town’s base budget while $20,000 – down from an originally proposed $30,000 – will come as a one-time expense with the latter funded by reserves.

Divided up, the new money would see $8,500 to the TRUE Festival, $2,500 to the Amherstburg’s Gone Car Crazy show, $3,000 towards policing for the Santa Claus Parade, $11,000 for the Truth & Reconciliation gathering, $25,000 for maintenance and expenses related to River Lights, $10,000 for “unplanned events” in 2024 and $20,000 due to increases in materials and operating costs.

Councillor Diane Pouget cited River Lights costs as a concern, stating she has been approached by volunteers that they would have strung lights for free in a tree instead of purchasing the new 30-foot tree that was in Toddy Jones Park.

Deputy CAO/director of development services Melissa Osborne stating the previous tree was at the end of life.

Pouget also had concerns about the ability to store displays. She didn’t believe taking from reserves was best financial practice.

Deputy Mayor Chris Gibb was supportive of the move, believing many of the events help keep a “small town feel” to the community.

“This community is going to see an incredible amount of growth in the next five to ten years,” said Gibb.

The deputy mayor added there are millions in investments happening in the downtown core and that brings more taxation dollars to the community. Gibb said the downtown and community events are what he was told is a reason for their investments.

“I think this is a smart business decision,” said Gibb.

Councillor Molly Allaire touted River Lights, but also the sponsorships the town received. She wanted to know if local businesses are willing to continue to sponsor the event to help offset costs. Osborne said a larger sponsorship program is being developed.

Allaire was concerned about events getting bigger, stating they are just going to cost more every year. Osborne indicated it took almost $297,000 to promote events in 2023 but $119,000 was obtained in grants and sponsorships.

Councillor Peter Courtney wanted to know what the overall goal is for tourism.

“We’re using taxation dollars,” he said.

Courtney said taxation dollars are also being used to entice private investment and urged council to look at things “from a mile high.” He added his concerns about congestion in Amherstburg and the footprint of the town is not growing.

“I’m totally opposed to this,” he said. “If there was ever a town to not allow this money would be now because the justification hasn’t been made yet.”

Councillor Linden Crain believed the request made sense as he said “hundreds of thousands” of people attend events. He believed it was “a no brainer” to support the return on investment that it brings.

“Tourism is a massive economic driver. It’s what makes Amherstburg so great,” said Crain.

Councillor Don McArthur said supporting the request aligns with the town’s strategic priorities and that he would support it.

“If we say no to this, are we saying no to Santa Claus? If we say no to this, are we saying no to the Gone Car Crazy show? If we say no to this, are we saying no to the Truth & Reconciliation Day? Where is that money supposed to come from if we say to this?” said McArthur.

Had the request been denied, it could have led to one or more event cancellations, Osborne added.

McArthur added they may be tourist events, but he is often a “tourist in my own town” when he goes to them.

Allaire said the festivals in Amherstburg “are great” and have economic benefits but, like Courtney, wondered when “enough is enough.” Events keep getting added but “eventually we need to say no.” She indicated she was willing to “get rid of a few events” but no motion was put forward as to what. Allaire called for efficiencies to events the town already presents.

Courtney also called to find “more efficiencies from within.”

The motion passed with Mayor Michael Prue, Gibb, McArthur and Crain in favour. Allaire, Courtney and Pouget opposed.

By Ron Giofu


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