Council reconsiders museum Fee for Service grant

Trent Ernst, Editor


On January 7, the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation (TRMF) submitted a Fee for Service Contract application.

Ten days later, the mayor wrote a letter back to the TRMF, outlining what information was required as part of the application.

By mid-February, the TRMF provided all the required information to meet the requirements outlined to the satisfaction of District staff, and so, on April 1, the Council met for a special meeting where they discussed the TRMF’s application.

At the April 1 meeting, Mayor McPherson expressed if the District is going to “buy into” the Museum and continue to provide funding then Council should become involved with the whole process. Tourism is the only industry that the District can influence and the Museum is a “Regional Museum”.

Councillor Kirby said she was happy that the District wants to get involved with the Museum and is looking forward to a working partnership with the District and the Museum.

The District has been providing core funding up to this date – no other funding has been used by another group that has done as much as the TRMF has been able to accomplish, and Council expressed frustration there hasn’t been a Provincial buy-in.

Council Caisley asked why bridge funding is being discussed when there are outstanding requests made to the TRMF that hasn’t been fulfilled. CAO Barry Elliott says the requested information has been received from the TRMF for the application process.

And here’s where the problem lies, because Councillor Kirby moved: “that Council agrees to enter into a three-year Fee for Service Contract with the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation, subject to both parties signing the Fee for Service Contract prior to the release of any District funds, and the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation agreeing to accept the contract deliverables as stipulated by the District, AND THAT Council agrees to authorize a 2015 funding allocation of $200,000 with the first installment of $50,000 to be released after the Fee for Service Contract is signed and the remaining amount to be released on a quarterly basis after the required Business Plan and Master Plan have been submitted to and accepted by the District, AND THAT Council agrees to review the success of the deliverables at the end of each calendar year, at which time Council will determine the level of District funding for the following calendar year.”

At least, that’s how the motion was written down in the minutes. But some members of Council don’t remember it going down that way. At the April 1 meeting of Council, when the minutes came forward to be approved, it started a discussion around the minutes that saw Councillor Howe voting against adopting the minutes and having the issue brought forward to the April 8 Policy and Priority meeting as a discussion item.

Councillor Krakowka maintains the recommendation was not read word for word as was written down. “This is not what we voted on,” he says.

Councillor Howe agrees. “My take is that this is not the will of Council. If the contract is already signed, we have to go back and say there was a mistake. How do we deal with this as it is not the will of Council?”

Elliott believes this was what was passed, and the contract was prepared based on that information. He says if it is Council’s determination that Councils will was not reflected in that document, he will contact the museum foundation, but cautions that both sides have to agree to change the contract before it can be changed.

Councillor Kirby says she thinks what is done is done. “We have a signed agreement with the Museum Foundation,” she says. “Going against that would be a disservice. We have people in this area fighting for us. To go back on it is just wrong. The Museum Foundation is moving forward. They’re starting to hire for the summer. To go back a month later and change it is distasteful and we need to move on.”

Councillor Mackay says he can see both sides of the issue. The agreement the way it stands is not what it was supposed to be, he says, but he agrees with Councillor Kirby that the TRMF has set their plans in motion based on this. “To go back on this would be a disservice. But we can look at the next two years.”

Councillor Howe remains adamant “I understand, but this is not what I voted on. I think it’s irresponsible to spend $200,000 without knowing what is coming down the plate.” Councillor Krakowka agrees. “I don’t support that. It’s not what I voted on.”

Councillor Caisley says he doesn’t see anything wrong with the intent of the motion that was made. “The principle was ‘give us what we require, and we will look at it, and if we are satisfied, further funding will provided.’” Until then, he says, the TRMF will only get the $50,000 in bridge funding that they have currently received. “I don’t see anything in here that puts Council into a box. We have no more commitment than that $50,000. We’re not stuck with anything until then.”

Elliott says Council has entered into a three year Fee for  Service contract, however, funding for years two and three have yet to be determined. “Council retains unfettered ability to decide for future years.”

But that’s not good enough, says Councillor Howe. “If we give them one more cent, we have to give them $200,000, according to the contract.”

Councillor Caisley says it’s not a guarantee. “It’s only on the basis that we are satisfied with the information received,” he says.

But for this year, says Councillor Mackay if they meet the deliverables, Council is locked into 200,000 for this year. “If they do come forward, we are on the hook for that 150,000” agrees Councillor Howe.

Councillor Kirby holds to her position. “I think we are investing in something that will benefit us. For the Geopark to be successful we need to stand behind them. The whole Peace region is standing behind them. This year is the big year. This is the foundation. We need to think long and hard before breaking a contract that is already signed. I just want to be clear that we are doing the right thing.”

Councillor Howe says he keeps coming back to the fact that what was passed was not what Council voted on. “Our hands are tied,” he says. “We can’t choose to give them more. We can’t give them less.”

“We don’t have a clue what the Geopark is going to be,” says Councillor Caisley. “I sure as heck don’t want that lumped in with the museum. I don’t care what the PRRD says and what cabinet ministers say. Nobody could tell us what it means. We’ve asked for this information from the TRMF, and asked for it and asked for it. We gave the first allotment in good faith. We don’t need to give them anymore.”

Council has pre-approved $24,000 for improvements to the Council chamber’s sound system, including the ability to record meetings. Councillor Howe, who made the motion, says he hopes being able to record the meetings will help prevent situations like this from happening in the future.