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Windsor Agricultural Society surprised by West Hants' offer to help negotiate rent

<p>Lisa Hines, one of the main organizers for the year-long celebrations planned to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the Hants County Exhibition, showed off a print of Susan Sweet's painting. Sweet was commissioned to create a memorable piece of art for the historic anniversary and it was unveiled during the Ag Art Festival in May.</p>
Lisa Hines showcases a print of Susan Sweet's painting that helped commemorate the 250th anniversary of the Hants County Exhibition. - File

'It was not an effort to penalize anyone'

WINDSOR, N.S. — The president of the Windsor Agricultural Society was surprised to hear West Hants' warden may be in touch to help negotiate a rental agreement with the Town of Windsor.

Lisa Hines said in a phone interview April 18 that she was under the impression that the Town of Windsor was agreeable to the $4,000 in monthly rental fees the society had requested for the continued use of the Hants Exhibition Arena.

In fact, she has a letter dated April 17 that says as much.

“You can see why that came as a surprise to me,” said Hines when contacted for comment on whether the society would be open to meeting with West Hants' warden.

West Hants councillors indicated on April 17 that they were concerned the cost of Windsor renting the facility to operate an arena next season would result in higher user fees. A motion was made to recommend to council that Warden Abraham Zebian be tasked with helping liaise between the two entities in hopes of seeing a lower monthly rent established. This discussion came about after council received a letter from the Town of Windsor requesting the municipality cost-share the $4,000 monthly expense, otherwise the town would look at increasing ice rental fees.

Hines said the letter she received indicated the town was willing to enter into an extended contract and wanted a year's extension (October 2018 to April, 2019). She said the letter stated the town “will probably seek an additional extension to April 2020 as it is unlikely any progress will be achieved with a new arena before that date.”

Hines said the town closed the letter looked forward to “executing a formal agreement” between the two parties.

When the Town of Windsor gave notice in 2014 that it no longer required the use of the Hants Exhibition Arena past April 2018, the Windsor Agricultural Society began looking at ways to use the facility.

“Currently, it's not generating any revenue so we started the process of looking into possibilities to make a little money on our main building for (five to) six months of the year that we currently hand it over,” said Hines.

What they discovered was there was a business case for renting the property as a storage facility for large items, like RVs.

“There's no mystery as to how we arrived at the rental for the arena per month. That's the plan we had in place. It's pretty straight forward,” said Hines. “We're a not-for-profit society. This has been a hardship for us. It would be nice if people could understand that.”

In the past, the Town of Windsor would pay rent for October and the agricultural society would absorb the cost of the remaining months as per the 1981 agreement. Windsor also provided what was required to make and maintain the ice.

“Even moving the earth in and out for ice has been a cost that we've covered,” said Hines, noting the town began paying half of the cost in the last few years.

Hines said charging $4,000 monthly rent is the society's way of being fiscally responsible.

“It was not an effort to penalize anyone. We, as a board of directors, are responsible for the financial health of the society and the facility. That's what we're there to do,” she said.

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