Tax­pay­ers will lose in Palace fight

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - -- Richard Ma­honey [email protected]­gar­

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.

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