Future of MEMMRI outdoor rink in St. George hanging in the balance

courier-community-news

St. George – The future of the Michael E. Morton Memorial Rink Inc. (MEMMRI) is uncertain, and town council has offered three different options for its continued operation in the future.

The outdoor rink, located adjacent to the ball diamond at Magaguadavic Place this past winter, was started two years ago by Troy Morton with the help of other volunteers.
In May, he told town council he had received conditional approval for a grant from the province through the Regional Development Corporation.

The conditions of the approval, as outlined by the province, were a complete, detailed business plan; an operational agreement from the town that includes liability insurance; and a sustainability plan.

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A press release issued Wednesday by the town notes council advised Morton that insurance was required of MEMMRI by the town’s insurance underwriters in order to issue documents and this had previously been communicated to him in January.
In June, Morton contacted CAO Jason Gaudet by telephone to inform the town the outdoor rink would no longer operate and the warming building at J.O. Spinney Drive would be donated to Fundy Middle and High School along with any additional lumber remaining from its construction.

He said he no longer had time to commit to the outdoor rink, and the remaining funds with MEMMRI would be used in transporting the building to a new location.
However, when Morton met with Gaudet in person July 12, he had changed his mind and wanted to explore all the options. Three were discussed.

The first is that MEMMRI continues to operate the outdoor rink, and the town continues to require proof of liability insurance, as originally requested by the insurance underwriters, in order to issue an operational agreement. With an agreement, as with any other third party organization in an agreement, MEMMRI would operate separate from the town.

The second option is that MEMMRI turns over ownership and care of the outdoor rink to the town. As with any town asset, the town would maintain the warming building and associated equipment. The operation of an outdoor rink would require volunteers so the town would seek some (“Friends of the Outdoor Rink”) whose sole purpose would be the operation of the outdoor rink, and would invite members of MEMMRI to assist.

The third option is that MEMMRI closes and removes the outdoor rink. With this option, the building and associated belongings would need to be removed from town property in an agreed timeline.

“The requirement of a third party organization/company to have liability insurance is a standard condition of an operational agreement and seeks to protect the town, and its residents, from possible legal proceedings and insurance claims unfairly brought on the town by the operations of a separate entity of the town,” notes the press release.

The release adds that while the town recognizes in previous years such requirements were not asked of MEMMRI, insurance underwriters of the town of St. George have requested this moving forward.

“The town of St. George has been supportive of an outdoor ice rink and has supported MEMMRI’s operation of an outdoor rink in a variety of ways including, but not limited to: not requiring user/lease fees for use of town property; covering the cost of electrical power to the operation; use of washroom facilities beyond the original seasonal function of those facilities; and no cost delivery of water for the ice surface.

“In addition, the town has never made any statements that do not support the operation of an outdoor ice rink and, as early as July 19, town staff met with Mr. Morton to discuss the future of the outdoor rink in a positive, professional manner.”

The press release goes on to say that, regarding comments made on social media, “we are disappointed to learn that the town (and members of its council) have been accused of closing or wishing to close the outdoor ice rink,” when the decision on its future must ultimately be made by Morton and members of the MEMMRI board.

“It should be noted that despite requests, the town has not met with a representing board of MEMMRI apart from Mr. Morton individually. Regardless of the negativity displayed on social media, we want to move ahead and focus on the options presented, not on misconceptions that only distract and divide. As a community we need to work together.

“We applaud the vision of MEMMRI and its dedication to develop the outdoor ice rink and we acknowledge the countless hours provided on this project by Mr. Morton and other volunteers. We encourage any person with questions on the status of the outdoor rink to contact the town office.”