Friday, May 14, 2010

Haldimand "Soccer Club takes County to Court"

Soccer club takes county to court
Wednesday May 12, 2010

While Dunnville soccer players prepare to fight for control of the ball on the fields, a bigger battle has been brewing on the sidelines.

What began as an ongoing debate between Haldimand County and members of the Dunnville Youth Soccer Club erupted into a lawsuit in recent months.

According to the County's Manager of Community Services, Hugh Hanly, "The Soccer Park Corporation took the County to court to determine whether the lease made in 1999 was still valid. The county terminated it in 2008. The judge found that the lease was not valid, and ruled in favour of the County, and directed that the County and the Club negotiate a new lease.

In the meantime, because there's no lease, Dunnville United Soccer Club is willing to take over."
Hanly said the Corporation is in the process of appealing that ruling, but youth soccer will continue as usual in Dunnville, with the Dunnville United Soccer League at the helm of programming, led by Dan Obsteter, President of the Dunnville United Men's League. This marks the first time since 1998 that the Dunnville Soccer Park Corporation hasn't organized programming.

"It's County property," said Hanly, "and just like when you use a ball park, we need an agreement. At the end of the day, we were successful in working with Dunnville United and we didn't want to get this lease thing mixed up in letting the kids play soccer. We're both working toward the same goal."

Hanly added that there are some individuals who "are both Dunnville United Youth Soccer and Dunnville Soccer Park Corporation executives, so it's convoluted trying to determine which side they are on. These guys have done a fantastic job of operating soccer and the County recognizes that," he said. "Not once did the County say, 'Give this to me so we can take over soccer.' If we had to, we would have for the kids, if nobody else had stepped up. We were prepared to get referees and coaches."

In e-mail correspondence dated April 14 of this year, Hanly wrote to Margaret Rose of the Soccer Park Corporation: "I have been advised by Councillor Boyko that your organization will not be running the soccer program in Dunnville this summer. I understand that soccer registration has already taken place and a number of users have registered. I respectfully request that you forward the registrations to Haldimand County, addressed to my attention immediately so that the County can ensure that soccer is Dunnville this year."

According to Marg and Sig Rose, long-time members of the Dunnville Youth Soccer Club, problems that led to the lawsuit go back as far as the early 1990s, when the Cayuga soccer park was developed, and Dunnville Youth Soccer, as a member of Haldimand Youth Soccer Club, assisted in funding the project.

The former Town of Haldimand also provided a grant of $50,000 to assist in facility start-up costs, said Sig Rose. He added that under the terms of the lease that was negotiated, the Cayuga branch of Haldimand Youth Soccer took full responsibility for the maintenance of the park. The Dunnville Soccer Park Corporation (DSPC) was established in 1998, with a goal of building a soccer complex, " because the only decent soccer field in Dunnville was being closed due to a drainage project," said Rose.

"The mayor of the former Town of Dunnville advised there was land available on Logan Road that was earmarked for recreational purposes. If we wanted to request town council to allow us to lease the property, we could develop it into a soccer park.

"Once that request was granted, DSPC, along with the Haldimand Youth Soccer Club, entered into a 40-year lease with the Town of Dunnville, with terms stating that DSPC would be responsible for all development aspects of the soccer park, and that the Town would, in turn, accept responsibility for grass maintenance and garbage collection. This lease was unlike the Cayuga soccer park lease in that the Cayuga soccer organization members wished to maintain the park themselves.

"In addition, the DSPC and town of Dunnville agreed that either party could exit the lease by giving 180 days notice. However, at the DSPC's insistence, a replacement clause was included, due to speculation at the time that the land may be needed for industrial development. We wanted to ensure that our investment of time, labour, and money was protected," said Rose. In the event the town needed the property for industry, they could cancel the lease within 180 days notice. But they would have to provide a similar, alternate facility elsewhere within the town.

"As a result of restructuring in 2000, the Town of Haldimand and the Town of Dunnville were amalgamated into the new County of Haldimand. In 2005, the Caledonia youth soccer group, which was also part of Haldimand Youth Soccer Club, began developing a soccer park on McClung Road, southeast of Caledonia, due to the fact that the County was using land that had a soccer field with lights and a partial fence on it, to build a new arena. To compensate for the loss of the soccer field, the County gave Caledonia soccer $150,000 to assist with construction of the soccer facility. In 2006, the Caledonia branch of Haldimand Youth Soccer entered into a lease agreement with the County in which Caledonia Soccer was responsible for all maintenance, including grass cutting."

Of the three towns, Rose said that Dunnville was the only soccer facility which negotiated to have the grass maintenance designated as a responsibility of the local municipal government, and further claimed that Dunnville was the only park not to receive any funding assistance from the former Town of Dunnville to construct the park.

"In 2007, the Dunnville youth soccer program split from the Haldimand Youth Soccer Club for many reasons," he said, "and became part of the Dunnville United Soccer Club. As a result, HYSC, through legal representation, requested a release from lease with the DSPC with respect to the Dunnville Soccer Park.

"To us, this seemed as easy as replacing HYSC with DUSC, or simply removing HYSC and leaving the agreement as being between DSPC and the County. The County did not agree and invoked the 180-day clause to terminate the lease. Then they offered a new lease, in which they were no longer responsible for grass cutting or garbage pickup, but offered a 65/35 split on grass cutting costs. If the County tting the grass, the DSPC would pay 65 per cent of the cost. If DSPC assumed the task of grass cutting, the County would subsidize by 35 per cent."

The DSPC and the County tried to negotiate a new lease for a couple of years with no compromise, stated Rose. "We finally went to the law firm of Cline, Bakcus in Simcoe to seek advice. Our position from the beginning was that if we build this park, the least the former Town of Dunnville (now the County) can do for us is cut the grass. Unlike Caledonia and Cayuga, we had no other financial assistance from the town or County in building the park. Moreover, the County has given both Caledonia and Cayuga $2,100 per year for the past few years to help with their grass cutting costs, even though both negotiated a lease agreement in which the soccer organizations accepted full responsibility for grass maintenance.

"In 2005, DSPC negotiated with the County to cost share on the construction of a field house, which finally was settled at 50/50, to a maximum of $100,000. The final cost of the building was $212,000. Caledonia recently negotiated a similar agreement. In Dunnville, we also constructed a pavilion, installed lights on one field, added drainage and built an additional five fields on adjacent, privately-owned property, all with no contribution from the County."

County staff were out cutting the grass last week, Hanly said, and have made arrangements to aerate and fertilize the soccer fields, as usual. If all goes as scheduled, the fields should be ready for play by the regular annual starting date of May 20 or so.

Article ID# 2574466


  1. why would any volinteer enter into an agreement with this county when they totally disrespect the efforts of volinteers who put the time and money to build one of the best soccerparks in southern ontario in exchange this have the grass cut for 30 years,,,and our local councillor who agreed to cancel it

  2. --"It's County property," said Hanly, "and just like when you use a ball park, we need an agreement.--

    Talk about a double standard.

    Where is Mr. Hanly's assessment of County property being used for protests at the HCCC in Caledonia? An arena, ballpark, soccer fields, playground and public library all share that piece of county property.

    Did the county have an agreement to allow that? I highly doubt it.

  3. Where was our Dunnville Councillor? Well he voted in favour of breaking this lease! So where is our representation on Council? Where was this debate on the table? Was this issue dealt with behind closed doors? All the answers are plain an simple, and there is only on resolution. Donna you have my vote!
    Denny of Dunnville

  4. This is good that it is an election year. So many past decisions are going to come and bite someone on the "butt". The hospital reversal decision, the braund house decison, the soccer lease, the airport fiascal, should I go on? We need a fresh face, we need some compassion and caring for our volunteers and all the hard working people of Dunnville that care about their town.

  5. Oh and i forgot to mention the ousting of Mel because he cared too much about the state of the Dunnville arena and was banned! I also forgot about the ousting of Bernie Corbett when he spoke out against the Hydro, I could go on but this really does piss me off Donna!

  6. As Councillor B. said it was a unanimous decision from our Mayor and 6 councillors to cancel our lease for the soccer Park. We have 2 Councillors at our end who voted against the lease not just one. That means that a lease agreement with the County isn't worth the paper that it's written on when they can cancel it at any time for any reason that they want. There can never be good faith between volunteers and the County with any issue. It all comes down to being political and personal.

  7. It seems that there is not much "good faith" in dealing with the county or our members of council. I think if at anytime it was time for a change it is now.

  8. Just to clarify (again), it is not the "soccer club" that has taken this to court, as stated in the header, it is the Dunnville Soccer Park Corperation, a totally different entity, a non-profit organisation that has done a great job getting the park to where it is today, with lots and lots of volunteers/hours. This however is not Dunnville United Soccer Club

  9. Just wondering if a lot of this is political muscle flexing..........blah, blah,
    It's obvious who's thinking about THE KIDS, and who's doing what they think is best to keep the higher ups happy!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    THE KIDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Cut the __________ing grass like they do everywhere else so they can get their much needed exercise, peer time, and fun this summer. (From volunteer coaches who also volunteer their time and are not paid don't forget)

  10. Is this really a blog???

  11. Thank you for your comments.

    For the individual that asks if this is a blog, I have taken the definition of a blog from wikipedia for your information;

    A blog (a contraction of the term "web log")[1] is a type of website, usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order. "Blog" can also be used as a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to a blog.

    Many blogs provide commentary or news on a particular subject; others function as more personal online diaries. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, Web pages, and other media related to its topic. The ability of readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important part of many blogs. Most blogs are primarily textual, although some focus on art (Art blog), photographs (photoblog), videos (Video blogging), music (MP3 blog), and audio (podcasting). Microblogging is another type of blogging, featuring very short posts.

    As of December 2007, blog search engine Technorati was tracking more than 112,000,000 blogs.[2]

  12. Isn't childhood obesity one of the biggest concerns we have in our society right now? The mayor should have been out there on a John Deere cutting the grass.

  13. I wanted to clear up a some points on the article above. First of all it is the Dunnville Soccer Park Corporation (DSPC) that has taken the issue of the discarded lease to court. The Dunnville United Soccer Club (DUSC) has nothing to do with any lease related to the Dunnville Soccer Park. DSPC has, since 1999, maintained the park, other than the grasscutting on the county owned portion of the soccer park. There is also a seven acre parcel adjacent to the county property which has been made available by Jim and Bonnie Hauser that DSPC also maintained, including the grasscutting (though the county did cut that portion as well for most of 2010). Dunnville United is the primary user of the facility.

    Also, DSPC has never been responsible for organizing programming at the soccer park, contrary to what the article states. Again, DSPC only looks after the facility. Its mandate is only to develop and maintain the soccer park. The programming for youth soccer was handled by local town representatives within the Haldimand Youth Soccer Club, until Dunnville was effectively booted out of HYSC for suggesting that we were considering combining the youth program with the original Dunnville United Soccer Club. No longer being welcomed by HYSC, in early 2007, the amalgamation of the youth program with Dunnville United created the new Dunnville United Soccer Club. The club now organized soccer for children 3 years old to 18, as well as adult teams for both men and women.

    Mr. Hanly made the comment that they never asked to take over the soccer program. That is correct. But the county did say if there is no lease agreement, there will be no soccer played on the park. DSPC will not enter into any agreement until the appeal is heard, which will be some months away. Mr. Hanly had also stated in an article in another local paper that Haldimand taxpayers have put more money into the Dunnville Soccer Park, than any other park in the county. I would like to see figures that prove that statement. I can't believe that when the county spends 12 or more hours a week on 4 or 5 ball diamonds in town and only 6 hours on the entire soccer park, that the county spends more on the soccer park. But I suppose freedom of speech allows someone to make whatever claim they want.

    Mr. Hanly also stated that the county was prepared to take over the youth program if they needed to. I'm not sure I would trust them to organize a game of solitaire without changing the rules as they go along. Chances are a consultant would need to be hired as well. What the county did do was consult with Haldimand Youth Soccer to see if they would run the program here, which of course they wouldn't do.

    Mr. Hanly is also very confused about who does what in terms of the soccer park. Again there is the Dunnville Soccer Park Corporation which was formed in 1998 to develop a soccer facility in Dunnville. It makes perfect sense that it would be people that have an interest in the game to be involved in this organization. Should it be members of the boat club or lawn bowling club that should have formed DSPC? Of course not! But if it is people that are involved in the game of soccer, as organizers, coaches, or players, should they be obliged to stop doing those jobs and only be responsible for their role with DSPC? Again, of course not. It is inevitable that there would be people that are involved with both groups. It is not our fault that this simple concept is too 'convoluted' for Mr. Hanly and others to understand.

  14. Further to the information I posted above, I should point out that in order to not show any conflict of interest, even though I am the vice president of DUSC, I did not participate in negotiations with Mr. Hanly when Dunnville United worked out a temporary agreement for soccer for this season. (Besides, I thought it might be confusing.)

    I did want to make the point, as others have said above, that our two local councilors were in favour of tearing up the 40 year lease, as evidenced by the unanimous vote in council. Clearly no support for what the volunteers do in our community.

    In another local paper a couple of weeks ago, Mr. Boyko said something to the effect that while he did vote against the lease, he was prepared to fight for the same terms in a new lease. What??? In a phone conversation I had with Mr. Boyko, when DUSC first went to a lawyer, he stated that he was pleased to hear that. He added that he felt the county should not have scrapped the lease in the first place, that changing the wording on the lease from Haldimand Youth Soccer Club to Dunnville United Soccer Club makes as much sense as having changed Town of Dunnville to County of Haldimand when restructuring occurred. He also said he was surprised we didn't take that route earlier. Now it is me that is confused. Which side is he on? Are all decisions at council made the same way - vote yeah at committee meetings and nay at council meetings, or the other way around? That just blows me away.

    This entire argument has been about the county wanting to charge user fees when our lease agreement guaranteed there would not be any for 40 years. There has always been a portion of player registrations that has gone to development, whether it is to develop players, coaches, and referees or to develop and maintain facilities. For the past few years $20 from every player went to cover costs of clinics, paint for the lines, nets, corner flags, toilet paper, soap, paper towels, etc., etc. Now the county wants us to cover 65% of grass cutting. They suggested raising fees to cover those additional costs. In anticipation that we might need to pay $7-8,00.00 to the county for this year, and last, we did raise rates by $10 for this year. While registration had gone up by over 30% since being out of HYSC, this year it dropped by about 20%. Whether this is a result of the rate change, the economy, or other factors is not clear. But contrary to Mr. Boyko's claim that the kids don't care where they play, the parent's certainly do. We had heard countless complaints about travelling and late games over the last several years prior to becoming part of Dunnville United. The change was positive in terms of getting more than 550 children out to play soccer for the past three years. Unfortunately, there are 100 fewer this year.

    But there is another election coming up. Council and staff are on this kick about harmonizing services and treating everyone the same throughout the county. FAIRNESS IS NOT SAMENESS. Haldimand is a collection of unique communities. When our local councilors can't support this community, then our support should go to those that will work for our community.

  15. Hats off to Sig Rose! You made things perfectly clear, you are right it is an election year and it is time for some big changes. Donna you are running to replace Lorne Boyko aren't you? I would give you my vote if I lived in that ward. Hats off to all of the volunteers time and efforts over the years. I just wish the county would feel the same way.

  16. Thanks for your comments everyone.

    Sig thank you for clarifying the facts.

    A huge thanks to Marg Rose for giving me a tour of the soccer facilities today! A lot of sweat, tears, heart and soul has gone into the soccer fields. You both should be very proud!