Council hears Grant in Aid and Fee for Service requests

Trent Ernst, Editor


On Thursday, March 5, Council heard a series of requests from the community for Grant in Aid and Fee for Service requests.

Grant in Aid requests recognizes that local community not for profit organizations and registered non-profit societies are valuable resources in helping the municipality provide a strong community focus. Each year, Council considers requests for financial aid from registered non-profit societies or local not for profit organizations under a variety of different goals, from enhancing community pride to encouraging volunteerism to promoting healthy living to promoting arts and culture.

Fee for Service requests are of a similar nature, but are for organizations providing these services over multiple years, signing a three-year contract with the District.

There were eight different groups appearing, seeking $235,900.

This is in addition to the two Fee For Service grants that were already approved on March 1: $200,000 for the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation and $58,000 for the Chamber of Commerce.

While Council heard the proposals, they have not been approved yet, but will be considered as part of the on-going budget deliberations.

Here’s a look at who is looking for what and why.

TR Days society Grizfest

The TR Days Society put in an application for a Fee for Services contract with the District to help fund Grizfest. This will be year number 14 for the festival, said the members of the Society who appeared before council (both Councillor Scott and Councillor Kirby recused themselves, as they are members of the society).

In addition, the TR Days Society puts on other events like the Pumpkin Patch and Tobox’n Race.

Last year, they cut costs in advertising, lighting and sound. Ticket sales were up from the year before with 843 tickets sold, but you could see the lack of money in lighting and sound. They are looking for $75,000 from the District for this year, $65,000 next year, and $55,000 the year after.

Councillor Caisley asks about the money that was borrowed last year. He says that, at the time it was supposed to be a one-time donation.

Finance Manager Chris Leggett says there are other issues as well. On page 4 of the grant in aid policy, it states that any unused funds as part of a donation are to be returned. The festival made $59000 in net income last year with total cash balance of $84,000. According to Leggett, the language of the policy says they should have returned the $50,000. Councillor Caisley asks what attempts have been made to recover this.

The Society members are a bit baffled. “This is the first that they’ve heard of it,” says Sheena Urness. “We spent the $50,000 on artist fees.”

CAO Barry Elliott says with the change in financial staff, the District is trying to look at the policy in terms of the language of the policy, the impacts might be different. “This is just our take on where it is,” says Elliott. “Council has the ability to do whatever they wish, but from an administrative standpoint, the language is to return the funds.”

Councillor Caisley says then wouldn’t it be incumbent on the District to actually contact them to inform them? Leggett says he assumed we’d be discussing that here.

Councillor Caisley says the form Council received from staff says “unsure if it meets eligibility criteria.”

“What I would say to Council is the application they’ve put forward is not much different than previous years, and in the past they’ve retained the money,” says Elliott. “But the language in the policy doesn’t reflect that. I would recommend that Council reflect on that. If there’s a problem with the policy, Council has the ability to say ‘thank you very much staff, but we choose to waive that for this group,’ if that’s Council’s wish.”

Councillor Krakowka says it sounds like those funds are funds they’ve made elsewhere.

Councillor Mackay asks when Grizfest starts looking for people?

“We’ve already confirmed our line-up for this year,” says Urness. “We’ve already sent a down payment out for most of the bands. We have spent much of the money in artist fees, sound crew, permits, especially. Last year we spend $91,000 on artists; in previous years we’ve spent $150,000.”

Mayor McPherson asks if this is the first time they’ve been in front of Council since last summer, which it is. “It would be an idea to change that,” he says, “because we could handle a lot of these issues beforehand.” He thanks them for the presentation and their time.

Success by 6

Success by 6 is asking for $2500 this year, and $2000 for the two years after that as a fee-for-service grant to add new services. “We are asking for a three year fee-for-services grant so we can present the Positive Discipline Workshop for parents over the next three years,” says Colette Ernst, Success by 6 Coordinator.

Ernst says there is a version of the course happening right now. She says at this time in Tumbler Ridge, with parents stressed out and kids stressed out, it is important for parents to have these resources. She says they are asking for an extra $500 for this year to purchase additional resources for library and TRCCS, while the $2000 would provide this workshop free for up to 20 adults.

Mayor McPherson asks why they’re asking for a Fee For Service Grant. “The way council has been looking at these grants is to look at it every year. I know some places use it for leveraging additional money, but is that the case here.”

Yes, says Ernst, that is partially the case. However, she says she was told that the Fee For Service Grant option was less work for council.

She says that one of the reasons Council considered Grant in Aid every year was because they weren’t sure the organization would still be there in two years. “However, I do not foresee the Ministry of Children and Family Development going out of business,” jokes Ernst. “We have been guaranteed the same amount of funding for next year. But part of what we do with the program is to use the money provided by the MCDF and the United Way as seed money to provide more capacity. We’ve raised $790 this year with three different fundraisers. We are using the money we get to develop more things. Our goal is to build capacity in every which way we can.”

Forever Young Society

The highlight of the evening was Bev Fournier and Maureen Sywolos from the Forever Young Society, who turned their presentation into a ten minute stand-up routine. Fournier did most of the talking, saying that up until two weeks ago, she didn’t even know that there was a request in, and she had to get a copy off of the Finance Manager. “We’ve cut a bunch out of the proposal that was made,” she says, then proceeds to outline what the cuts are, including doing away with bus trips and other cuts. “I’m hoping we’re going to be self-sufficient after the end of this year,” she says. “Before us, there was one main person, but she kept all the info to herself, so we’re basically starting over.”

The mayor congratulates them for cutting the amount they are requesting by about half. However, Councillor Mackay cautions that they don’t need to cut everything out. “For instance, for the bus trips, those who can’t pay will just not go, and you want everybody to be able to go.”

Fournier says the idea is to fundraise. “Where I come from, if we wanted something, we would just raise the money,” she says. Besides, they talked about this at a recent meeting, and this was what the seniors decided.

Councillor Krakowka asks about the phone, which is listed in the budget. “It is the District’s building. Can we look into that? A building that is owned by the District but is used by the public, the phone should be in our name. We should look into that.”

TR Cares

TR Cares/Shelter Service is looking for $30,000 this year, and going up by $600 for the next two years. A representative is unable to attend, as there was a conflict, says the mayor, but the money would be used to fund their main programs, including the shuttle, the safe shelter project and family assistance for families with extraordinary needs.

TR Community Arts Council

There is no representative from the Arts Council, who are looking for a Fee For Service grant of $6000 this year, and $1200 over the next two years. The reason for the increased cost this year, according to the proposal, is because Tumbler Ridge is hosting the Peace Liard Juried Art Show this year.

TR Hospice Society

Doug Foerster, President of the Hospice and Respite Care Society came to discuss their Fee For Service Grant. They are requesting $20,400/year for the next three years for the operation of the two units they maintain for hospice and respite care. “We in effect get two for the price of one,” says Foerster, because BC Housing is leasing the units at half the cost.

“What we are able to offer, no other community is able to offer.” he says.

Councillor Krakowka asks about the Lifeline program. How many people are using it? One, right now, he says. “We are merely the in-betweeners,” he says. “It is run by Northern Health.”

Councillor Scott asks how many people used the units last year.

Foerster says they were used for about 67 days last year. It wasn’t used as much last year as in previous years. “We can’t advertise it in the paper,” he says. “It’s not a flop house, but if there’s a family in need, they can call on us.”

Mayor McPherson says if these spaces are used once a year, they are worth it.

TR Cares Shelter Services/Work in Progress

Angela Robertson came to represent the Work In Progress (WIP) program, which is under TR Cares. The organization has been here since 2010, she says. It started as a support group for Special Needs Families. They started Good Foods Box initiative a year and a half ago. The program is currently funded through the United Way. This year, they are applying for a grant through the District to run the Good Food Box program this year. The $4500 Grant in Aid request would be used to pay for the coordinator for the Good Food Box program as well as an honourarium for volunteers.

She says they have also applied to the United Way, and if they got both grants, it would allow them to supply boxes for people who can’t afford it.

Councillor Kirby says it’s a great program, and it’s great work experience for the students.

Tumbler Ridge Police Based Victim Services

Joanna McBain appears before Council to request a Grant-in-Aid of $4500 for three RCMP caseworkers to attend the annual training symposium. In the past, the District has supported this. “It is typically the only training the caseworkers have,” says McBain, “which is why it is so important.”

Because the timeline on this is so short, Council breaks with protocol and votes to grant the money to the Police Based Victim Services. Grant is approved.