Budget 2017: Council approves new Grant in Aids, reduces old

Trent Ernst, Editor

Last month the District looked at its Grant in Aid spending for 2017.

There were only a few new applications, including an ask from the newly formed North East Climbing association for $1000 to creating new routes at the Mt. Babcock climbing area. “This would include purchasing tools for trail work and route development,” says club president Anthony Moreau-Coulson, as well as “materials such as lumber and rebar for trail work, hardware such as rap rings, hangers and bolts, and relevant signage. The new routes and trails would be at the three climbing areas on Mt. Babcock, the Shipyard and Titanic Hiking area, the Boulder Gardens Hiking area, and the Foehn Wall which is located on the West side of Mt. Babcock near Nesbitts Knee Falls.”

Tumbler Ridge, says Moreau-Coulson, has a huge potential for becoming a destination for rock climbers throughout Northern BC. “We currently experience a large number of visitors from the Peace River Region, and the need to expand the options for climbing is evident. The costs of building these areas can be quite high, which is why we require funding from grants to continue to build routes.”

With the money, they are hoping to complete 110 new routes, along with new trails to access the routes and infrastructure like bridges and new signs.

The Grizzly Valley ATV club also approached the District, looking for $7,500 to continue the work started last year in the form of trail clearing. Last year, says club president Tim Croston, the club worked in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce to build a new 11 km trail and clear two other trails. This money would help the club clear a third route—the Wong Way Trail—that has fallen into disrepair.

“Many of the local ORV trails have become encroached upon by forest regrowth, making them almost impassable,” says Croston. “Our club works to promote recreational tourism for both visitors and locals alike. By clearing the trails, we can offer a good outdoor experience for trail users.”

The trail, says Croston, has some historical significance, as it was pushed through back in the early days of the mine as a proposed route to take people from the McConkey shop back to town. The route also connects via Forest Service Road with the Mount Hermann Trail that was cleared last year, creating an ATV area.

More contentious was Council’s approving of $200,000 for the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation Fee For Service 2017 allocation.

Councillor Howe proposed cutting the amount given to the museum by 15 percent. “I’m looking for areas where we can reduce the budget by 15 percent. I’d like to see us look at a small reduction in this. I’d like to change this to $170,000.”

Councillor Scott points out the census decreased by 26 percent. She is concerned about the population having to carry the cost of that.

Councillor Kirby says the hit from the loss of taxes is tough. “I talked to Mr Wall and we are sound right now,” she says. “I get the point, but they [the museum] were in a three year contract, and this is their final year. They might have already made plans to move ahead based on what we’ve planned.” She says instead of cutting this year, Council needs to completely revisit their Fee for Service and Grant in Aid policy for next year.

Councillor Mackay suggests a fixed amount for Fee for Services. He says he is all in favour of taking a look at it for next year, but to start withdrawing funds sends the wrong message.

Councillor Caisley agrees. It was his understanding, he says, the deal with the museum was a three year commitment, and says it would be unfair to make changes now.

Mayor McPherson agrees, saying District has committed to support. He can see the argument that Councillor Howe has brought up, and over the next year, he’d like to talk to people to come up with something that everyone is happy with.

Councillor Howe says his concern is that there was no sign that the Closure Allowance that Peace River Coal received was coming. “We were told at a meeting two years ago they couldn’t cut taxes without taking the buildings down,” he says. “What happens if next year Teck decides to go the same route? That’s my fear, and we need to start looking at it now. That burden should be shared a little bit.”

Councillor Scott says she’s good with meeting prior commitments but isn’t looking to add anything new. In the end, only Councillor Howe opposed the motion.

He also opposed a $3000 grant to Summit Avalanche for avalanche monitoring, as did Councillor Scott, though it still passes.

However, the proposed budget for support for Grizfest was reduced to $85,000, including in-kind services. Much of that reduction comes at the cost of staff time, including removing key organizer Joy Mckay.

Grizzly Valley Days Chairperson Terry Cosgrove says this is creating chaos for the committee. “We are being thrown into a situation where we don’t know what Joy does on a day to day basis,” she says. “We are overwhelmed.”

With less than six months to go before the festival, she says, the committee will be hard pressed to be able to pull things together by then. “We don’t know specifically what the cost of [McKay’s input] was. There’s a lot of things done at the District level. Every poster that’s made, every sheet of paper comes out of the District.”

Cosgrove has asked the District return the 15 percent cut from the in-kind budget to allow them to hire a coordinator to learn what needs to be done to put the festival on. “This is the only way to understand the difference between the District and TR Days,” she says.

Council has agreed to discuss their proposal at an upcoming Council meeting.