A hoped-for sane policy for community funding grants


city_scope_logo-cmykWith no sane or sensible guidelines currently in place, council is about to grapple with how it dishes out funding to community groups.

At Monday’s meeting of council, members will receive a report entitled Policy on Granting Funds to Community Organizations, a framework that should have been in place years ago.

No better example of the helter-skelter approach utilized in the past than the dithering this summer over whether St. Thomas Cemetery Company should be granted $59,000 in funding.

A debate that appears more grounded in personality conflict than sound financial sense.

And, we fondly remember the time one group actually walked away with more money than asked for, prompting a now-retired alderman to observe, “We’re giving out money to people who haven’t even asked for it.”

Under this proposed policy, as a component of the annual operating budget deliberations, council will receive requests for financial support from community organizations. Council will set time lines for the submission of requests each year and publicize the dates determined.

The report, authored by Mayor Heather Jackson, recommends .5% of the current year’s municipal property tax levy be budgeted for community grants.

This year’s levy was a little more than $47 million, which would have translated into an available grant pool of about $235,000.

To be considered for funding, groups would have to complete an application, outline where and how the money will be spent, submit their most recent audited financial statement or financial report and, if available, the organization’s budget for the current year.

A subcommittee would be struck to review submissions and make recommendations to council.

The proposed policy advises “Community organization may be limited to funding support by the municipality. When possible, community organizations will be encouraged to become financially self supporting and not reliant of municipal taxpayers support.”

SO WHERE WERE THE PROPONENTS?

Bill Gurney knows how to enthusiastically engage participants who attend one of his brainstorming sessions.

Bill Gurney, senior design manager for New Line Skateparks, encourages boarders to select features they would like incorporated into the city's new $600,000 facility.

Bill Gurney, senior design manager for New Line Skateparks, encourages boarders to select features they would like incorporated into the city’s new $600,000 facility.

And, he is a heck of designer of skateparks, to boot.

He combined both attributes Tuesday at the Timken Centre where he hosted a design workshop for what will become the Railway City Skatepark.

Gurney and New Line Skateparks have been given a $590,000 budget to design and construct the facility on just under two acres of land adjacent to the Timken Centre and the new home of the St. Thomas Police Service.

The firm has completed close to 200 projects, including Kiwanis Skate Plaza in London.

“The prospect of a budget of $590,000 for facility design and construction is a good number,” Gurney told the Times-Journal on Wednesday.

“It’s a nice budget to work with. I’m pretty confident with that kind of budget we can provide a pretty substantial facility.”

And what feedback did he get from the young boarders in attendance?

“There is a fair amount of call for a bowl of some style, something we call a snake run, lots of call for a fun box feature of some sort and a fair amount of call for something we call a custom, skateable art feature that could take on any kind of creative form,” explained Gurney.

What was a disappointment, however, was the dismal turnout of 12 to 15 young board enthusiasts. There had to be 75 or so empty chairs that should have been occupied by those who have vented their frustration with city council in person and on social media.

Equally curious was the absence of mayor and councillors, at least during the first 75 minutes of the session attended by this corner.

Another missed opportunity on the part of our elected officials.

Good to see parks and recreation director Ross Tucker and Catharine Spratley, city supervisor of parks and forests, giving of their time Tuesday.

Related posts: Don’t worry he’s not throwing in the towel
New skate park on the horizon but it comes with a hefty price tag
Tom, Bob – talk to us we’re waiting
Where’s the financial impact of new police HQ?

HAVE YOUR SAY

Patricia Morfee took umbrage with my comments last week regarding Lori Baldwin-Sands’ defeat in the federal vote earlier this month.

Lori Baldwin-Sands

Lori Baldwin-Sands

We noted Baldwin-Sands finished a distant second to Karen Vecchio, who captured the riding by more than 10,000 votes.

In the 2011 provincial election, she was also the runner-up, more than 8,700 votes behind Jeff Yurek.

We suggested Baldwin-Sands — a former St. Thomas alderman — may not have curried favour with some voters because of her lack of participation during many city council meetings.

To which Patricia responded, “Lori did not lose the election for the reasons you suggest. She was more knowledgeable than the other candidates.”

Patricia continues, “No the reason was that the people in EML did not want change from the same old tired apathy that they have been used to and were willing to settle for less. In fact she tripled the vote for Liberals and came in second in spite of a split vote. Give credit when it is due.”

Not sure where credit should be directed, Patricia. For losing by an even greater margin than in 2011? For garnering 31% of the popular vote?

And what split vote? Vecchio, with 28,022 votes, out-numbered both Baldwin-Sands and Fred Sinclair, who combined for 26,400 votes.

And I’m sure those 28,022 voters don’t feel they settled for less when they marked an ‘X’ beside the name Karen Vecchio.

Related post:
Don’t worry he’s not throwing in the towel

QUOTE OF THE WEEKGurney, Bill

“It’s a lot of money to work with and I think we can create something pretty substantial and pretty creative.”

Bill Gurney, senior design manager with New Line Skateparks, the firm contracted to design and construct the Railway City Skatepark at a cost of $590,000.

City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to ian.mccallum@sunmedia.ca.

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