The City of Fernie will review a grant program after receiving over $185,000 in applications for only $18,000 in funding.
Sixteen local groups and organizations were successful for 2019 discretionary grant allocations, which were approved at the January 28 regular meeting of council.
However, many others missed out, with the City receiving $185,336.83 in funding requests.
Among the unsuccessful applicants was the newly-formed Reel Canadian Film Society, which hosted the 11th annual Reel Canadian Film Festival in Fernie the previous weekend.
The Society had applied for $3000 through the 2018-19 Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) Program and a $2000 discretionary grant, however, only received $1654 in RMI funding.
President Rebecca Hall attended the Jan. 28 meeting to air her concerns about the discretionary grant application process.
“My main concern is that we had applied such a long time ago and then we weren’t given any notice that we weren’t going to be successful,” she told The Free Press.
“Not that they have to do that… but we have been receiving funding and they seem to really support the event. Now that the festival has passed, there’s nothing we can do about it.”
Hall explained the festival costs about $22,000 to run and is largely funded by grant funding, and in-kind support from local businesses and organizations.
“We need that money and that’s what it’s there for,” she said.
“If it’s not going to be awarded until the end of the month then it would be helpful if that was mentioned in the application, so we would know to go after other funding.
“All these applications take a long time to put together and when you’re a volunteer organization it makes it very hard.”
Hall first learned of staff’s recommendation to council 10 days prior to the festival starting, which created extra stress for the Society leading up to the event.
It faced extra costs this year after breaking away from The Arts Station to form an independent organization.
“We just had to try really hard to get our numbers up and make sure that attendance was really good,” she said.
Fortunately, opening night nearly sold out and there was good attendance at other screenings.
Hall said the Society is still assessing its financial situation following the funding decision and thanked the City for its support over the years.
“We realize these grant applications are discretionary and it’s more about the dates and letting people know, and making sure that organizations… if they’ve been recognized as being of value to the community, that undue pressure isn’t put on that organization through logistical processes,” she said.
“We are really grateful to the City for all the support that they’ve given us over the years, they are one of our main funders.”
At the Jan. 28 meeting, Mayor Ange Qualizza acknowledged Hall’s concerns and the huge demand for funding.
She said the City will review the discretionary grant process and look at how it can better support groups in the future.
Discretionary grants are split into three categories – core operating; economic development and tourism; and athletic/educational/community group.
The successful applicants were: Bright Beginnings Community Preschool ($1000); Fernie Heritage Cemetery Restoration Society ($500); Fernie Pets Society – Dog Park ($500); Fernie Pets Society – SNIP Program ($750); Joan Delich Kindergym Society ($1000); Fernie Pickleball Society ($3000); Lost Souls Society ($500); Elk Valley Gymnastics ($1000); Fernie Family Housing Society – Tom Uphill ($2500); Fernie Kids Tri Society ($500); Fernie Nordic Society ($2500); Fernie Roller Derby Society ($750); Fernie Therapeutic Horse and Pony Club ($750); Ghostrider Adventure Camp ($1000); Isabella Dicken Elementary School PAC ($750); Special Olympic BC Society Elk Valley ($1000).
A total of $10,654 was awarded from the 2018-19 RMI program. The remaining funds went to the Fernie Nordic Society ($2000) and the Fernie Snowmobile Association ($7000) on the condition that they would work with Tourism Fernie to market their events.
To see a full description of funded projects, see the agenda for the Jan. 28 meeting at Fernie.ca.
Other City of Fernie news
Sea can controversy
The uncontrolled use of sea cans across the City sparked much discussion at the January 28 regular meeting of council.
Council was asked to consider a development variance permit application (DVPA) for a property on 4th Avenue that had installed a sea can (shipping container) late last year.
Sea cans are considered accessory buildings under the zoning bylaw, however, this particular sea can did not conform to setbacks at the property, so required a DVPA.
Mayor Ange Qualizza raised concerns about the high number of sea cans in the community and asked for clarification on the City’s policy.
Manager of Planning Patrick Sorfleet said a bylaw addressing sea can use in commercial areas came before council in 2011, however, got no further than second reading.
He acknowledged citizen complaints are often the only way the City learns of their installation.
Councillor Phil Iddon was concerned approving the DVPA would set a precedent.
Councillor Kevin McIssac said he was loathe to punish the applicant but wanted to have a conversation about a long-term sea can policy.
After much debate, council decided to request more information prior to making a decision on the application.
Waste collection fee increase approved
An increase to waste collection fees has been approved by council. At the January 28 meeting, council adopted Bylaw No. 2371, Waste and Regulation Bylaw No. 1845 as amended.
The bylaw increases annual user fee for waste collection from $6.22 to $13.17 per month effective for the first quarter of 2019. It also changes the definition of acceptable containers to only those provided by the City.
These changes were approved last year as part of a comprehensive review of solid waste collection, which included automation and curbside recycling collection.
City to raise rainbow flag
Elk Valley Pride Festival will once again feature a flag raising ceremony at City Hall.
The event was a new addition to the Pride program last year and was well received.
At the January 28 regular meeting, council approved the Fernie Pride Society’s request for in-kind support of equipment to install decorations.
The next regular meeting will be held in council chambers on Monday, February 11 at 7 p.m.