George Bakers speaks against a motion providing $10,000 in support to the MHL Amherst Ramblers during Monday’s meeting of council meeting.
AMHERST – Amherst town council passed a motion during Monday’s meeting which, “approves funding support for the Amherst Jr. A Ramblers in the amount of $10,000."
One councillor, George Baker, opposed the motion, while the others five supported the motion.
“Look at our tennis courts, garbage, look at our basketball courts, garbage, look at our ball field, garbage,” said Baker during an interview after the meeting. “Instead of giving all this away, why don’t we put money into something for everybody in our community, not one organization.”
Before discussing his concerns about the $10,000, Baker wanted to make it clear that he is a supporter of the Ramblers organization.
“The Ramblers is very, very important to our community and very, very important to our stadium and for the revenue of the stadium,” said Baker.
But he says the town already provides enough financial support for the Ramblers.
“I’m not against helping the Ramblers, I’m against adding another $10,000 to their budget because they’re already getting over $16,000 from the town,” said Baker. “My concern is that, what if minor hockey comes in next year and says they’re $20,000 in the red, or the skating club costs $20,000, are we going to do it for them too?”
Baker says the town has a deal on advertising with the Ramblers, which gives them half the advertising revenue.
“That’s about $8,000 a year, and then we pay another $5,000 on the security people who come in. That’s $13,000,” said Baker. “We also give them two free rentals at Amherst Stadium during the summer for fundraisers. That’s another $1,500.”
Baker also says the Ramblers have a very good deal with the bar at Amherst Stadium.
“In most rinks the bar is split between the town and the team,” he said. “We give the Ramblers all the bar on top of that, so we’re way over and above what we should be doing.”
Instead of running to the town for $10,000, Baker says the Ramblers need to do more fundraising to make up the shortfall.
“If you’re running a business and the revenue isn’t high enough to run your business you cut the expenses, instead of that they’re increasing their expenses,” said Baker. “They said bus costs are going up but they have four less away games (this coming year). It might have gone up a little bit but that should come down some.
“They should have made an effort to go out and do more fundraising to cover that $10,000,” he added.
Baker says if the town is going to provide more than $25,000 in funding per year, then the town should take the team over.
“I think the town should wake up and realize that if they want a junior hockey club here then the town should take it over, have an executive of five people and have a booster club off to one side,” he said. “We’ll make sure the sponsors all stay on board and then on Jan. 10, when they need money to buy those one or two extra players to go a little bit further, the town will be there to write that cheque.”
The synopsis of the funding request read to council before the vote on the motion says the economic impact of the Ramblers for the Town of Amherst is more than $1 million annually.
“With a direct economic impact of over $400,000 annually in direct receipts, the overall impact to restaurants, hotels and general retail would be estimated at over $1 million dollars,” said the synopsis.
Baker says the $1 million is nonsense.
“Where would the spinoff be?” asked Baker. “If a team hits a storm or has a double header they might stay here one night, but where’s the spinoff, they all buy their food at my canteen.”
Baker said anybody could easily divide $1 million into 24 home games ($41,666.66 per game) and realize the number is not realistic.
“The $1 million is there to make it look good for the councillors who voted for it.”
Baker says the more the town does for the Ramblers, the less the Ramblers will do in terms of raising money.
“As an elected official, I was elected to make sure every organization is treated fair but I think we’re overdoing it with the Ramblers.”