Rossland council will look closely at groups it funds

Rossland city council will be taking a hard look at how previous councils have funded community groups.

Rossland city council will be taking a hard look at how previous councils have funded community groups when budget discussions take off in the next few weeks.

This was noted during Monday’s meeting when the Rossland Sustainability Commission budget request of $30,000.

“Council is faced with many things as far as upcoming budget deliberations go, it’s nothing about the Sustainability Commission or the work they have done,” Coun. Jill Spearn said. “But I know we have had to at least think about some of the costs to the city of all of the service groups.”

Spearn said the decisions on the groups should wait until they can look at the whole picture.

She added that city staff feels it could do the commissions administrators duties.

“I do recognize that we are going to have to tighten our belts so to speak on some things,” she said. “I know that there are some other things that we need to put some money towards in terms of sustainability.”

Coun. Jody Blomme liked the spirit of trying to find efficiencies in the money being spent.

The problem she had was that the city would stop paying for someone’s job. She also didn’t like that they were singling out the Sustainability Commission, and attempting to make decisions in isolation.

“There are other community groups, there are other efficiencies, perhaps, that we could see if we looked at the whole picture,” Blomme said. “Would rather take a look at everything all at once instead of looking at this one thing in isolation.”

Coun. Kathy Moore agreed with the previous councillor’s comments, but was concerned that taking on the administrative responsibilities may lead to increases in staff salaries, that could negate any savings of the in-house administrative work.

She also worried that the commission’s work may slow down, as city staff have many other things to take care of.

“It’s a very viable commission, they do a lot of good work,” Moore said. “It could wither and die if it wasn’t the time to do it.”

Moore asked for staff to report back on how much time city employees would have to allocate to that kind of work.

Coun. Kathy Wallace agreed that there was no sense of urgency in the matter.

Council voted against the motion and sent it to budget discussions.

Next up, was the Gold Fever Follies rental fees, which are waived on an annual basis by the city. The Follies operate in the Miners’ Hall during July and August.

Staff recommended renewing the free rental agreement.

“I think the Follies are a wonderful part of the community and I support them,” Wallace said.

Moore asked for clarification on whether council was putting the Follies on notice for paying rent next year.

“I think what we should do when we get to budget discussions is probably do something like that to all groups,” Mayor Greg Granstrom said.

The city pays $11,000, according to Moore, for custodial work on the Miners’ Hall, but during the two months the Follies are there, they take care of most of the work, so the custodial bills drop for the summer. The city does do a routine check of the building, so the custodial bill doesn’t completely disappear in those months.

Spearn said she would play the devil’s advocate again, saying that while the Follies do provide a community asset, the numbers aren’t extraordinary.

Spearn worried that there are some groups that have been around  for so long that they are just accepted as something the city should pay for. She said that like other community groups, the Follies should bear the budget scrutiny.

Blomme at first suggested that council put forward a motion to make the Follies pay rent this year, but Moore noted that there is not much time for them to apply for grants or budget for this year’s show.

“I’m fine with it being free for this year, and then having a discussion about it for next year,” Moore said.

The motion was carried.

Moore asked staff for an update on the implementation of a 2009 report on the Miners’ Hall.

Rossland Council for Arts and Culture requested that council approve the sculpture bear play.

Spearn was in favour.

“Originally when they came forward with that design I went, ‘Why bears?’” she said. “We have bears everywhere, we’re just going to confuse people, but I really learned to appreciate public art.”

Spearn said that she has noticed that communities with public art cause people to mingle, walk around and shop.

Wallace liked the design.

“Part of it is the playfulness, part of it is the relationship between the parent and child, which I think is a great thing to put right in front of the library,” Wallace said. The motion was carried with all in favour.