Taxpayers will lose in Palace fight
They say, as the song goes, that breaking up is hard to do. But in the eyes of North Glengarry Township, separating is not only difficult, in some cases, it is illegal.
That adamant stance has been adopted by NG as the municipality tries to force South Glengarry to stay in the 40-year-old Glengarry Sports Palace union. Don’t even consider pulling out; this is non-negotiable, NG has told SG. Although SG says the deal does contain a way out, covered in the Section 12 “Dispute Resolution” mechanism, NG contends that clause cannot be used to deal with SG’s desire to end the intermunicipal marriage.
The NG argument is backed by a legal opinion to the effect that SG cannot simply terminate the agreement and that NG has no obligation to even discuss SG’s withdrawal.
North Glengarry will “cease any discussion that would lead to the end of SG’s legal commitments to the GSP.”
SG can’t leave because NG says so. Case closed.
You don’t need to be an Edward Greenspan to question the rationale behind such a position, which seems to be, to use a legal term, rather loopy.
Granted, common sense cannot be enforced, in real life, or in a legal document. As that eminent legal expert Groucho Marx famously declared: “There ain’t no sanity clause.”
However, any reasonable person knows that nobody can be forced to stick with an arrangement against his or her will.
The adage “Deals are made to be broken” was not created in a vacuum.
Ironically, while NG is trying to impose its will on SG, NG has inked an agreement with Cornwall that recognizes the rights of both parties to call it quits. The NG-Cornwall fire dispatch agreement contains a clause that enables either side to terminate the contract with six months noitce.
But when it comes to the Palace, North Glengarry figures it can call the shots. Money is the prime motivator. South Glengarry owns 25 per cent of the Alexandria facilities, and pays a quarter of its expenses. SG’s share runs anywhere from $60,000 to $70,000 per year. And that figure does not include capital expenses, which will inevitably become high because the 40-yearold Palace is showing its age.
North Glengarry’s taxpayers are obviously hoping the cost-sharing set-up will be maintained since the southern contributions helped lighten the North’s portion of the money-losing operations.
Yet, the South could easily find a lawyer who would provide a legal opinion to reinforce its departure from the Palace pact.
NG apparently believes that by not talking about it, the issue will go away.
Suggestions that the municipalities share the cost of a mediator have been scuttled.
On the other hand, South Glengarry has been in no hurry to pull the plug on the agreement that was signed before the 1998 municipal mergers.
Back in April of 2015, SG council voted 3-1 to “initiate the steps necessary to relinquish the township’s 25% ownership of the Glengarry Sports Palace” and “take any and every step necessary to eliminate all liability associated with ownership and operation” of the arena.
The split advocates affirmed that SG was getting the short end of the stick in the accord that was drawn up when the Palace was built. Back then, Alexandria paid 50 per cent of the costs, and Lochiel and Lancaster 25 per cent each. After NG and SG were created during the 1998 amalgamations, the 75-25 cost division went into effect.
SG Councillor Trevor Bougie summarized the separation proponents’ case: “In 1998 when amalgamation occurred, the GSP should have been renegotiated so that North Glengarry had 100 per cent ownership.”
A divorce would make financial sense for SG: Who would not like to have an extra $60,000 in the bank?
Yet, there would be a price to pay. Faced with a $60K shortfall, NG could justifiably impose new charges on the estimated 25 per cent of South Glengarry citizens who use the Palace.
If the North sticks to its guns, and refuses to negotiate a separation, the South would likely lawyer up, and the next step would likely be litigation, which would quickly eat through the $60,000 that is the central issue of the dispute.
Ultimately, regardless how this fascinating standoff proceeds, the taxpayers will end up paying for the municipalities’ irreconcilable differences.