This year’s Community Initiative Grants were doled out at a recent council meeting. Forty-two groups had requested funding and, with not enough money to go around, 14 went away with nothing.
Columbia Basin Trust gives the City of Nelson about $126,000 to distribute among applicants each year. The city generally allocates 35 per cent ($44,000) of that to arts, culture and heritage groups whose applications are judged by the cultural development commission. The rest ($82,000) goes to other community groups who make their case to Nelson council. Council has the final say on the funding decisions and could choose to move money allocated for arts groups to a community project it deems more worthy — though this year no such adjustments were made.
The Cultural Development Committee considered applications from 13 organizations and awarded funding to all but two. Oxygen Art Centre was given $8,000 to fund its artist residency program and The Nelson Civic Theatre Society received the same amount for its lobby and washroom renovations. Nelson and District Arts Council got $6,500 for Art Walk, and the Kootenay Literary Society received $6,000 to host the Elephant Mountain Literary Festival. Seven other grants between $1,000 and $3,000 were also distributed.
City councillors had some hard decisions to make with 29 organizations requesting a total of $230,000 in funding — nearly three times the amount they had available to distribute. Each group was given the opportunity to present their case at a special meeting earlier this month. The mayor and five councillors (excluding councillor Donna Macdonald who was on vacation) voted on what projects they most wanted to fund. Projects that received fewer than three votes received no funding. Twelve projects were excluded, including several food security projects and groups that were asking for amounts in the excess of $10,000.
Councillor Deb Kozak said many of the food projects were lacking a strong business case — not enough benefit for the cost — or duplicated services already available in the community. While supporting more of the costly projects (like the Kutenai Institute of Integrated Therapies’ request for $24,000 for a supporting secure attachment project, or a request for $20,000 to support Habitat for Humanity) would have meant fewer groups getting grants.
In the end only two organizations were granted five figure amounts. The Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce got $33,000 for its regional visitor gateway and the Nelson Curling Club got $10,000 for accessibility upgrades — though both of these groups were hoping for $5,000 more than they received. Five groups received grants around $4,000: Kootenay Climbing Association, Kootenay Carshare Co-op, Central Kootenay Invasive Plant Committee, KidSport and Nelson CARES. Nelson Regional Sports Council received $3,500 for Civic arena upgrades and nine other groups received grants between around $1,000 and $3,000.
It took council about 30 minutes to settle on the funding amounts, down from the two hours they spent agonizing over their decisions last year. In all but six cases, groups that were funded were given the full amount they requested.
Councillor Paula Kiss said the process went considerably smoother than last year and thanked city staff for helping facilitate the process.
The full list of grants awarded by council, along with the amounts those groups originally requested, is in the document below. The list is colour coded by the number of votes each project received. The projects endorsed by the Cultural Development Committee are separated out near the bottom.