Fishing tourney gets cash, waived launch fees from South Dundas

The South Dundas Municipal Center in Morrisburg. (Newswatch Group/File)

MORRISBURG – South Dundas will be kicking in $3,000 plus waiving the waterfront boat launch fees for a bass fishing championship tournament in September.

Council decided Tuesday night to put support behind the Renegade Bass tournament after the village of Morrisburg beat out Cornwall and Gananoque in a location draw Aug. 8.

Acting CAO Shannon Geraghty estimates forgiving the launch fees would amount to $1,500-1,600. The South Dundas Chamber of Commerce is also putting in $2,000 after a request from Geraghty.

Coun. Marc St. Pierre told councillors he spearheaded the request to be included as a possible site for the tournament. “The reason I wanted to meet with them is the scuttlebutt on the street and information I received, the reason they didn’t come to Morrisburg this year is…they were not wanted in this village to come back and host another tournament,” St. Pierre said.

Renegade Bass spokesman Paul Shibata indicated several people, including Marc St. Pierre, Mayor Evonne Delegarde and chamber administrator Geri Fitzsimmons, had approached his organization “and communicated they would like to see Renegade come back.” Shibata couldn’t say comfortably whether the chamber or the municipality was leading the group.

Shibata said relations had soured with the previous administration – specifically with former Mayor Steven Byvelds and former CAO Steven McDonald – who were “sincerely rude to us about our presence.” Shibata said over the winter his office was contacted by McDonald and told “you’re not welcome back here because you didn’t pay the (launch) fees.”

A phone call to Byvelds requesting comment was not immediately returned.

Shibata said tournaments of Renegade’s size not only don’t pay launch fees but “are often given funds to help encourage the events to come realizing how much direct economic impact there is.”

In that followup meeting, St. Pierre indicated the mayor had been part of that meeting. Shibata said the group, which met about four weeks ago, were not aware of the September championship when the meeting took place, which centered on having “more activity on the waterfront.”

“That bothered me because it’s a known fact that the money that is pouring back into the community is anywhere from $60-70,000 and that’s without putting any extra effort…that’s just them putting on an event,” St. Pierre said.

Shibata said during one year the McEwen gas station was pumped dry and people stay in the area during the balance of the tournament – roughly three to four nights.

St. Pierre also pointed to a successful tournament across the river in Waddington, N.Y. last weekend as a section of the river that’s very popular with bass anglers.

St. Pierre said he didn’t expect the last minute request for money because he “did not know what their requests were” when he met with organizers and he also thought Morrisburg’s chances were “a long shot.”

The councillors expects some blow back from the public over waiving the launch fees. “I pay my launch fees as well. But knowing that comes back to the community, I think it’s well worth having this event back.”

Coun. Archie Mellan didn’t like the issue dumped in his lap five minutes before a council meeting.

“I think council should have been brought on board before we had any discussion with anybody on bringing in a bass tournament and they’re looking for this type of money,” Mellan said.

Mellan understands the tournament would bring a lot of business but “when I see sponsorships that comes up and down that river I have a hard time giving somebody $3,000 of taxpayer’s money and waiving launch fees. We should not be getting this cold turkey five minutes before a council meeting,” he said.

“Sorry…no, I’m not sorry,” Mellan stated.

Shibata said what they are asking for is no different than municipalities making concessions for blues festivals or hockey teams. “It’s a simple smart investment,” he said in pointing to Renegade’s non-profit status because “you never know where the money is going” with for-profit entities.

Coun. Bill Ewing, who was behind initiating the launch fees years ago, still supported the plan. “If they don’t come we don’t have the revenue anyway. I can live with it. We don’t know (if it will be successful) if we don’t try it.”

But Ewing added “the last minute stuff (funding requests) has go to stop.”

There are several areas council can draw from for the $3,000, including an economic development money pool for special projects.

Acting CAO Geraghty said the money will be used by the tournament for prizing.

Renegade spokesman Shibata said the tournament is the NHL caliber of fishing tournaments and has a “large circle of influence” where North American anglers will plan their holidays around where a tournament is taking place.

The Renegade Bass catch-and-release championship, which is a registered not-for-profit, runs Sept. 12-13, 2015.

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