Community groups in Rossland were left surprised and confused after learning that Mayor Kathy Moore had sent a letter to the Columbia Basin Trust ensuring the City of Rossland would not expect further support from the trust’s Community Development Program for the next two years.
Council approved a letter from Moore to Neil Muth, CEO of the CBT, at a special council meeting on Monday, May 9. In the letter, Moore thanks the trust for the support it has provided to the community of Rossland and says, “I want to let you know that the City of Rossland has no expectations of any substantial support from the Community Development Program for the next two years. We recognize that we have received significant funds and the needs throughout the basin are great. While we do not control applications submitted by any of our community groups, we recognize that we need to prioritize the projects that we wish to support and communicate our priorities to CBT.”
Moore further summed up the city’s position at the regular council meeting the following week when addressing a representative from the Red Mountain Racers: “We won’t be giving any letters [of support] that can be used for the trust for two years.”
Community groups were surprised to learn of the letter and were confused as to what it meant for future grant applications. Specifically, groups wanted to know if they could still apply to the CBT for funds with any anticipation of approval. Asked about this, Delphi Hoodicoff, director of communications for the CBT, said the trust will continue to work with community groups in Rossland to identify funding opportunities for them, but that funding for Rossland needs must be prioritized.
“Over the past year, the trust has been shifting how it works with communities, moving away from looking at individual projects and looking more holistically at what a community is looking to achieve. Community groups should be working with our manager of community relationships, Kelvin Saldern, to identify key projects for the community,” said Hoodicoff. “It’s Kelvin’s job to support communities in identifying their priorities. At this point, it appears that many key projects in Rossland have been funded and are underway. We know that things can change, or the unexpected may occur, and that is where Kelvin will be able to work with the community to determine if it is critical to address in the short-term, if the priorities have shifted or if it can wait.”
Concerns were also raised over whether or not the CBT had funded the Miners’ Hall restoration project at the expense of funding further capital projects in Rossland. Asked about this, Hoodicoff replied, “The City of Rossland flagged this project as a priority, and that other key projects were already being funded or are under way. The Trust is always balancing priorities across the region and across sectors, and we expect that communities need to do the same.”
“Resources are finite and there will always be trade-offs,” she continued. “That’s why working with Kelvin will be important to ensure the community is working in the best way possible on the projects that are most important to the community.”
One of the groups especially concerned with the letter was the Rossland Seniors Association. The Rossland Seniors’ Hall is at the tail end of a 10-year project plan and the seniors were hoping to get some funding through the trust.
“We had a meeting with Kelvin Saldern about a year and a half ago, sort of feeling out what we wanted to do with the Seniors’ Hall in the final stage of resurrecting the old building and he told us to put a package together and the cost,” explained Les Anderson, president of the Rossland Seniors Association. “That’s what we were working on. We were doing it very diligently, very careful that we didn’t ask for more that we needed. That is what was holding us up.”
Now the seniors association is afraid it won’t be able to get the needed funding. Asked about this, Hoodicoff said the best thing for community groups to do is to talk to the trust by setting up an appointment with Saldern.
Anderson was also upset that the association was given no forewarning about the mayor’s letter.
“I don’t think we’ve been treated really all that fair,” he said of the entire situation.
Other community groups, such as the Rossland Museum and Archives Association and the Rossland Public Library, also said that they were caught off guard by the letter.
Asked to repsond to these concerns, Mayor Moore said, “It was a little bit unexpected to us too, because we just sort of go to CBT and ask for money a little bit without a big strategy in place. I had been told some time ago that CBT really prefers that there’s sort of more of a strategy coming from the local government about how they want to prioritize, that kind of thing, and we haven’t really spent a lot of time doing that. A community group comes forward and we say, ‘Hey yeah, that’s a a great idea, go for it.’”
“The whole thing about having more money in Rossland had been coming up as sort of a peripheral conversation, like it had been mentioned a couple of times ‘Oh Rossland’s getting kind of a lot of money,’ but it wasn’t said ‘You guys should stop asking’ until just recently,” added Moore.
The letter came about after a meeting with Muth and a conversation with Saldern.
“Kelvin had suggested it would be a good idea to send a letter just so it’s sort of official that we, the city, understand that we’re not going to be pressing them for money for the next couple of years.”
Rossland community groups that want to meet with Kelvin Saldern can contact him at 250-304-1622 or firstname.lastname@example.org.