Aquatarium ED quits
Council to vote next week on hotel tax allocation
Aquatarium executive director Bill Rogerson will be leaving his post in the new year to go work for the City of Kingston.
Rogerson announced his resignation Wednesday, effective Jan. 2.
Rogerson’s departure comes amid continued financial troubles at the multimillion-dollar tourism attraction, struggles that spilled over to a fresh debate earlier this week about the allocation of Brockville’s hotel tax revenue.
But Rogerson said Thursday afternoon the financial issues did not motivate his departure. “It’s just time,” he said. A former Gananoque town official, Rogerson began working at the Aquatarium in March 2011, when it was still known as the Maritime Discovery Centre of the Thousand Islands and had yet to open.
Rogerson will move to Kingston, where he will become that city’s manager of recreation facilities.
Controversy of some sort, often of a financial nature, has been a constant in his entire tenure at the Aquatarium, noted Rogerson.
“It’s really nothing new but I’m confident in the plan that the board and the team here is putting together,” he added.
From the outset, it was always understood the Aquatarium would require some city support, but the new board is working hard to ensure a greater portion of the facility’s revenue comes from private funding and grants, said Rogerson.
The news follows the latest debate at city hall about the allocation of the Municipal Accommodation Tax (MAT).
Council’s new economic development, recreation and tourism committee is recommending the full council adopt a revised allocation plan for the MAT, known colloquially as a hotel tax.
Subject to annual approval by council, half the money received is to go to the city “for tourismrelated assets and activities” which could include the Aquatarium.
The other half would go to the Brockville and District Chamber of Commerce, which runs tourism for the city, “for increased marketing, support of local festivals and new product development.”
Meanwhile, the recommendation also calls for the one-off measure “that $50,000 of the 2018 MAT receipts, before the formula is applied, is allocated to the Aquatarium.”
The motion cites a council resolution from July 24 as the basis for that move.
The balance of this year’s MAT revenue would again be split 50-50, with the city ’s half also going to the Aquatarium.
City officials estimate that in 2019, the first full year of the MAT, revenues will amount to $425,000.
For this year, the total has been estimated at $200,000.
Tourism officials have been lobbying council for more money for tourism promotion, arguing this is necessary to help Brockville compete with nearby tourism destinations such as Gananoque and Kingston.
On Tuesday, chamber president Pat Markovich told the economic development committee the move to take $50,000 off the top before the allocation does not comply with provincial rules for the administration of the MAT.
Chamber officials want that $200,000 at least to be split evenly, with the tourism office getting $100,000.
As worded in the motion, the Aquatarium would get $50,000, then another $75,000 from the split allocation, for a total of $125,000, while the chamber would get $75,000.
Acting city chief administrative officer Maureen Pascoe Merkley told the committee city officials “have received an opinion” from the city lawyer that the resolution going forward is compliant with provincial rules.
The full council is expected to put the resolution to a final vote next Tuesday.
Committee members were sympathetic to the chamber’s financial plight, but backed the proposed allocation.
Mayor Jason Baker said the city needs to get the Aquatarium to a position where it requires less funding from city taxpayers.
For the moment, city hall is “buying them time and weaning them off,” added Baker.
“I’ve got faith in the direction that they’re taking down there.”
Baker said he does not believe the Aquatarium will be self-sustaining, although Jeremy Hobbs, the Aquatarium chairman, believes it will.
The mayor told the committee he hopes Hobbs will prove him wrong. Rza[email protected]media.com
Aquatarium executive director Bill Rogerson speaks to Brockville council in November 2017.
Brockville and District Chamber of Commerce president Pat Markovich speaks to city council's economic development, recreation and tourism committee on Tuesday.