After two hours and much horsetrading, Nelson city council finally split its 2012 Columbia Basin Trust community initiative funding between 27 projects Monday.
Some grants — including $37,000 to the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce for ongoing renovations to the old CPR station — received broad support, while others — such as Kidsport, the Oxygen Art Centre, and Kootenay Lake Outdoor Skatepark Society — were debated at length.
The skatepark society ultimately received $10,000 of the $30,000 it was seeking, Kidsport $4,000 of the $5,000 it wanted, and the Oxygen Art Centre $1,000 of its requested $10,000.
Twenty-three other groups received funds ranging from $250 to $14,000 while another 23 received nothing.
There were bound to be tradeoffs, because the program was oversubscribed by more than double: the total amount available was $126,400, while the total amount requested was $262,800.
Council especially struggled with the skatepark society’s application.
Councillor Donna Macdonald noted “We already supported them — we got them a $400,000 [provincial] grant.”
However, council heard the society needs to put up a substantial amount to ensure that grant goes through.
“If providing $30,000 is going to come at the expense of 10 other small projects, we have to be careful about emptying our pockets,” councillor Paula Kiss said. “It’s a huge sum. I’d rather given them bridge financing to make sure they get the grant.”
“This project has taken ten years to come to fruition. I would hate to see it fail now,” said councillor Deb Kozak. Council ultimately gave the society one-third of what it sought, although Mayor John Dooley said if it was up to him, he “would have given every cent.”
Kidsport’s application also received a mixed response, with Macdonald concerned the group has already received a substantial amount in recent years. Kiss said the organization was better able to find funds from other sources than other applicants, and Kozak suggested professional sports should kick in more.
Dooley, however, argued he could “list 50 people” who played pro sports and then returned to give back to the community.
The Oxygen Art Centre’s application to provide an arts education program for adults and children was heavily scrutinized as well.
Dooley said it amounted to subsidizing tuition at a private school and would open the door to other schools coming forward next year.
Macdonald, however, said she didn’t see Oxygen as a private school, but as a non-profit that fulfills many roles, including exhibits and residencies in addition to educational programming.
“Yes, but this application is about continuing education,” Dooley argued. “This is pushing us into an area where other applicants will come forward.”
“You’re supporting Kidsport. Why aren’t you supporting kids’ art?” Macdonald asked.
Council cobbled together $1,000 for the program at night’s end.
While the Legion received most of what it asked for, it wasn’t without debate either. The request was to help cover renovations to create a new exit for SelfDesign High, a tenant in the building.
Macdonald said she supported the school and venue, “but I don’t think we need to cover the entire cost.”
“I want to be careful about funding asset maintenance,” Kiss said. “We should tread carefully about managing others’ assets by rescuing them to make [the building] useable for their tenants.”
Groups seeking major funding that received nothing included: Nelson Friends of the Family (sought $4,000); Nelson Regional Sports Council ($30,000 for third phase Civic Arena upgrade); Social Planning Action Network ($5,000); and Nelson Good Neighbours Program ($10,800).
For the last few years, council has set aside 35 per cent of the funds for cultural projects, and a local jury has been asked to make recommendations to council on its disbursal.
Councillors accepted some and rejected others.
They also lamented that they didn’t have more cash to spend.
“We have so many good projects and not enough money,” said Kozak.
“I’m glad we only have to do this once a year,” said Macdonald.
Nelson also had less money to play with than in previous years, due to a change in the formula for apportioning funds. Whereas before it was a combination of population and assessment, now it’s strictly by population, resulting in $6,400 less.
Despite the long debate, council ultimately ratified its decisions unanimously.