COUNCIL MATTERS: Special Meeting -- Community Grants and an IT Decision

Sara Golling
By Sara Golling
December 7th, 2016

Special Council Meeting, December 5, 2016

Council met to discuss and make  funding decisions for Community Grants, and to make a decision on the City’s Information Technology (IT) needs.

Present:  Mayor Kathy Moore, and Councillors Aaron Cosbey, John Greene, Andrew Zwicker, Andy Morel, and Lloyd McLellan; Absent— Marten Kruysse

Community Grants:

Moore explained that Council had determined earlier to cap Community Grants at 5% of its total anticipated municipal tax revenues, which would limit this year’s grants to a total of $250,000.  Applications for grants totaled $354,600,  so not everyone will get what they want.  Moore asked that people wishing to speak on behalf of an application limit their remarks to information  not included in the application.

Public Input:

Ryan Kuhn spoke in support of the KTCS application, citing the many community benefits of our local trails, and the costs of maintaining them, and their history of leveraging the dollars granted by Rossland.

Ann Damude spoke on behalf of the Sustainability Commission, explaining that its goal this year is to save the City money,  to work on the City’s priorities, and to assist with research that City staff may need but don’t have time to do. 

Libby Martin thanked Councillors who took time to go to the Museum and look at the facilities.

Two directors of Little Oasis Benefit Society  spoke to invite questions from Council about what they do; they offer Equine Assisted Learning and Therapeutic Riding programs.   Zwicker asked if there was insurance or other funding available for their work; they said yes, but there is a “large gap,” so many children aren’t covered.   

Linda Gomez and Dave Wood were present and Gomez spoke in support of the Black Jack request for funding for a van; their van is now high-mileage and falling apart, and she explained how much it is used.  She also spoke in support of the Visions for Small Schools application.

Mike Kent spoke for Youth Action Network (YAN) with “a couple of updates” — they are seeking funding  for  the YAN building at the Emcon Lot, including the aim of getting a public washroom built there sooner rather than later.  McLellan felt that a shared washroom could work, and that security concerns raised by Kent could be addressed by an internal security door.  He thought that could save a lot of money.

Fourteen organizations applied for grants from the City.  Council first took a vote on whether each applicant should be funded at all, without setting an amount of support for any of them. This resulted in the following four applicants being removed from consideration for funding:

Visions for Small Schools:  Moore noted that the funding requested, $10,000, was for international and extra-provincial marketing, and that SD 71 can do that, with Seven Summits Centre for Learning as one of their facilities that students can choose to attend; that information was part of the VSS application.  Only Morel and Cosbey voted in favour of granting VSS some amount for one last time, to get them more firmly established, so the motion FAILED.

Scouts Canada asked for $8,300 to repair the Scout Hall.  Council agreed that the  building is not in good condition and that other spaces are available for the Scouts; Greene mentioned the possibility of more space becoming available in the Miners Hall after the renovations.  CAO Bryan Teasdale noted that the Scouts building lease expires in 2017.  Councillors also noted that the Girl Guides, among others, have no dedicated building.  The motion to provide any funding FAILED.

Little Oasis Benefit Society asked for $7,000.  A total of six youth from Rossland were involved in their programs in 2016; this is their first year of operation.  Cosbey explained that although he recognizes the great value of the program, he doesn’t think Rossland can afford to support it.  Morel also recognizes its value, and would like to see some funding for it.  McLellan thinks its “a great program” but doesn’t think it’s Council’s job to pick charities and contribute taxpayers’ money to them.  A motion to provide some funding FAILED, with only Zwicker and Morel in favour.

 Black Jack Cross Country Ski Club asked for $24,500 toward a new 15-passenger van to transport cross-country racers to training and competitive events.  Morel declared a conflict and left the room.  Cosbey explained that he could not support the Black Jack request for the same reasons that he could not support Little Oasis.  McLellan agreed, and so did Greene.  Moore pointed out that if Black Jack had asked for funding for something that would benefit cross-country skiing as a whole, she would be more in favour of it.  The motion to provide some level of funding  FAILED  with no one voting in favour.

 Council agreed to proceed with setting amounts of funding for the other ten applicants.

Cosbey moved that all the smaller requests —  for $5000 or less — should be given what they asked for this year, and the remaining funds be apportioned  among the larger requests. The motion CARRIED unanimously.

Cosbey then moved that Council first do their “averaging” exercise, then re-visit the results and adjust some if necessary.  The motion CARRIED.

Zwicker noted that the Trail Recreation Program (TRP) was  not listed; Moore explained that Council had taken it out earlier, during budget discussions, because so many people felt that it unfairly favoured some groups by subsidizing certain recreational choices over others.

McLellan suggested that they address the issue of multi-year funding first;  Cosbey moved that Council institute a three-year rolling contract for selected groups, as it’s more valuable for some groups to have a level of secure funding than others.  He explained that some groups have to establish longer-term plans and develop relationships which aren’t possible when they don’t know if they will even be in existence in another year. Council discussed the issue of “tying the hands” of future councils, but acknowledged that they do that all the time in various ways.  Zwicker proposed a friendly amendment that the multi-year funding be available to groups, but only at the groups’ request.

The  amended motion to enable a three-year rolling contract for funding, at the option of the group, starting next year, CARRIED unanimously. 

A motion to offer multi-year funding to all groups remaining on the list of organizations to be supported, except YAN, starting next year, FAILED.  Cosbey had pointed out that the amounts granted this year total the 5% allowance, and that rolling contracts committing the same amounts into the future could close the door to any other applicants.

Jackie Drysdale, in the gallery, sought and received permission to speak.  She commented that if rolling contracts are used, then evaluating an applicant’s performance and benefit to the community should be part of the agreement. She suggested there should be clear criteria for evaluation included on the application form.

Here’s a list of the successful applicants, how much they asked, and the amounts granted to them:

Rossland Council for Arts & Culture — asked for $4000; was granted $4,000.

Kootenay-Columbia Trails Society — asked for $20,000; was granted $20,000.  Council ensured that this amount was granted, to retain eligibility for regional funding.

Tourism Rossland — asked for $55,000; was granted $20,500

BC Conservation Foundation (Wildsafe) — asked for $3000; was granted $3,000

Heritage Commission — asked for $5,800; was granted $4,833.

Sustainability Commission — asked for $14,000; was granted $12, 250

Tennis Society — asked for $3,000; was granted $3,000

Rossland Museum — asked for $48,500; was granted $45,308

Rossland Public Library — asked for $127,000; was granted $121,192

Youth Action Network  — asked for $24,500 for earlier construction of a public washroom near the future skatepark; was granted $15,917.

The City’s IT Issues:

After extensive discussion, and a series of failed resolutions, Council ultimately CARRIED a motion to go with Option 5 on the list provided by staff.  This option included having Shaw provide telephone and internet to the City, except for the  Miners Hall, which will be served without charge by Columbia Basin Broadband Corporation (CBBC).  This option is the least expensive for the City, and is expected to provide relatively quick relief from its ongoing telephony problems, security concerns and service interruptions, while also utilizing CBBC on a limited basis.  In discussion, Council  recognized the efforts made  by CBBC and expressed a strong desire to use CBBC internet, but both staff and Council stressed the urgency of improving service over current levels.  Cosbey had wanted to defer the decision until CBBC could obtain and provide more information, and had made motions to that effect which did not succeed, because as Zwicker pointed out, the City can’t really afford to wait, even though they would like to utilize CBBC.  Hamming pointed out that the City really needs to save money, especially in 2017, and this option saves the most.  In conclusion, Cosbey commented, “We made progress, in spite of my best efforts!”

With its IT matter finally settled, Council adjourned the meeting.  Your reporter crunched home on the snow and ice, wearing a puffy down coat and mini-crampons (among other things), mentally refining a method for offering community groups who need it the most a level of year-to-year funding security without committing the City to more than it can afford.  And appreciating the beauty of the night.     

Editor’s Update:  I have since been informed that CBBC will not be providing free internet to the Miners Hall, as that was a bonus  conditional on the City using CBBC for its other internet service as well.  The City will switch to Shaw for its telephone and internet service, which is still the  most cost-effective option available.  CAO Bryan Teasdale has confirmed by telephone that  whether or  not CBBC internet service will be installed in the Miners Hall is still under consideration, depending on cost.

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