Grant-in-aid debate ignited conflict between councillors

Mona Mattei
By Mona Mattei
November 26th, 2010

Amid tense debate and challenges to the chair, Grand Forks City Council managed to distribute over $75,000 in grant-in-aid funding on Monday night. The 25 applications for 2011 funds were reviewed and the decision making process for the requests, totaling over $200,000, was a lengthy one.   After voting down a motion by Councillor Joy Davies to postpone decisions until council, or a committee of council, reviewed the requests and made recommendations to the next meeting, they proceeded by considering each independent request. Applications from the community ranged from as small as $250 to $50,000.   Immediately the Boundary Museum Society request for $50,000 sparked a tense debate triggered by a motion from Councillor Christine Thompson that the request be removed from the grant-in-aid process and become a line item commitment in the city’s upcoming 2011 budget.   “If you look at their submission for a grant-in-aid, and all the wonderful letters of support that they have received from the School District, from the USCC, from a Senator in Nunavet who visited the museum this summer, I think that really speaks well of the Boundary Museum,” said Thompson. “They do need funding to operate to be able to look after and maintain those items that were given into their care and custody and stewardship. They did provide us with a budget with a shortfall of some $90,000 in no way suggesting the city make up that shortfall.”   Debate on the motion ensued with Councillor Chris Moslin suggesting that rushing into commitments with volunteer organizations usually does not end well.   “What we’re being asked to do is grant an amount of money and then go and fill it up with service,” said Moslin. “I would rather… enter into discussions regarding the establishment of an annual funding agreement and then in that funding agreement come up with the cost of the service.”   Eventually council voted to provide the museum funding in their upcoming budgets. Councillor Gene Robert then challenged council to increase the Grand Forks Art Gallery funding to match the funds being allocated to the Boundary Museum.   “That’s how all this bad feeling starts,” said Robert. “I think the Gallery is on side, I think they really want to work with us, and we keep kicking them in the teeth.”   Robert’s motion to increase funding to the art gallery by $30,000 was deferred to their next meeting.   Once the museum question was resolved, the remaining requests were dealt with in the order they appeared on the list council had been provided. The entire grant-in-aid budget was allocated despite a policy stating only 80 percent would be distributed in the fall allowing for future requests.   Local resident and past mayor, Neil Krog spoke to the process during question period challenging council to consider their responsibility to taxpayers while suggesting the process being used to determine grants sets up organizations to be in conflict.   “I’m not sure how many councillors actually read their own criteria for the programs that they had put forward,” said Krog. “So far technically you’ve spent $125,000 with the money (for the museum). One of the things that I think is the biggest economic development engine is the appeal of our city. I’m a taxpayer and business licencee. If you draw visitors downtown, then they spend money downtown. It makes sense to me that my money should fund the downtown.”   Later in their meeting, council agreed to review their grant-in-aid process, and decided to look into doing a referendum for future funding agreements for the museum and possibly the art gallery services at their next meeting.   Grants approved by council:   Boundary Dog Sled Association                                    $ 2500 Whispers of Hope                                                                1000 Grand Forks Community Trails Society                           1700 Boundary District Arts Council Society                             5000 Boundary Emergency and Transition Housing           10,000 Phoenix Mountain Alpine Ski Society                             10,000 Pee Wee Rep Bruins Hockey Team                                  1000 Boundary Girls Fastpitch Association                                1000 Doukhobor Benevolent Society                                           1000 Grand Forks & Boundary Regional Agricultural               7500 Crazy Legs Dancers                                                             2000 Grand Forks Slavonic Society                                             1000 Grand Forks International                                                10,000 Boundary Youth Soccer                                                       1000 Air Cadet League                                                                  2000 Kettle River Mountain Biker’s Assoc.                                 3000 Boundary Women’s Resource Centre                              7000 Phoenix Nordic X-country Ski                                                500 Boundary Horse Assoc.                                                       2000 Grand Forks Area Geocachers                                             250 Grand Forks Border Bruins                                                 1000 Grand Forks Citizens on Patrol                                             750 Boundary Fibre Festival                                                       1500Grand Forks Curling Club                                                   1500 

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