The Apple Butter and Cheese Festival committee would become an official offshoot of Wellesley council if organizers had their way.
ABC Fest chair Jamie Reid made just such a pitch in a letter discussed Tuesday night by township councillors, who gave tentative approval to the idea.
The impetus is the rising cost of insurance to cover the annual event, an expense that would be mitigated under the township’s policy.
In a letter read by Mayor Joe Nowak, Reid said the festival is now spending upwards of $6,000 each year for insurance coverage. That’s having an impact on the organization’s ability to raise funds to give back to the community.
If the Apple Butter and Cheese Festival became a committee of council, they could be covered under the township’s umbrella policy, saving thousands of dollars, Reid argued.
“I understand that doing this will affect our freedoms to allocate funds as we see fit, but I’m confident that with the guidance of council, we will come to an agreement for the best ways to distribute our profits each year,” he said in the letter.
Coun. Shelley Wagner expressed concerns that other groups would follow suit and ask for the same thing.
“There’s nothing stopping other organizations from asking the same question,” said chief administrative officer Rik Louwagie. “I think in this case this is a festival that’s been running for 47 years in the township and it’s one of the things the township is known for. I think each request would have to be looked at on their own merit, but I would say this is certainly a Wellesley Township event.”
Coun. Herb Neher asked whether the funds would be used to benefit the whole township or just the village of Wellesley.
“If it’s going to be part of council, then I would like to see some of that money spread out to some of the other communities,” he said.
Louwagie said that currently all or most of the funds are directed to village organizations and causes, but if the ABC committee came under the township’s wing, council would make the final decision about where the money is allocated.
“So if council‘s direction is that the money should be used township-wide, which I’m assuming it will be, then that’s what the terms of reference would reflect. And then as the committee brings their recommendations to council, council would decide on that,” he said.
Council voted unanimously in favour of the Apple Butter and Cheese Festival committee becoming a committee of council in principle. Staff will start work on creating a terms of reference outlining how the committee’s funds will be handled, what the decision-making authorities are and the organization’s budget.