More requests than money for community grants in aid
It is going to be a tough decision. The requests for the 2011 community grants received by the municipality come to a total $200,384. But the budget earmarks an amount of only $136,300 for that purpose.
On June 6, council has to make a decision which of the deserving community groups will take home all or less than what they asked for. At the meeting on May 24, council invited the applicants to state their case for receiving financial support. Eight of the 16 organizations sent a delegate.
Karen Blow, chief financial officer, generated a report to council that included information about grant history and recommendations meant to be a springboard for discussion.
The Bowen Island Arts Council had applied for a core grant of $55,000 and a grant of $7,200 to supplement the rent of the gallery. The organization was represented by Carol Cram and Jacqueline Massey. Cram asked which of the councillors had recently attended an art event. All of them raised their hands. Massey reminded the audience that “Bowen Island is ranked the fourth most artistic community in Canada based on a per capita count of people who draw a primary income from the arts.” She added, “We work with what we have but our budget is tight. Due to our current financial situation, we had to close the gallery in January to save money. But we continue to host arts exhibitions and arts programs, we sponsor concerts and theatre. And we continue to work with the community hall advisory committee.”
In response to Blow’s recommendation to award the arts council a lesser amount, Massey said, “We are dismayed that we once again have to proof our worth to the community.”
Cram added, “If there is a cut in funding, we would not be able to keep our staff and continue operating the gallery. It would be shame to lose the venue for the community. In 2010, we launched an arts and cultural survey that showed that 90 per cent of islanders attend arts events regularly. From the feedback we learned that we need more programs and that we need to create more economic opportunities for artists. Arts on Bowen are an investment.”
Beverly Underhill, the president of the Bowen Island Historians, spoke about the need for funding in the amount of $55,000 for a full-time position of the museum curator and a part-time archivist. She said, “Heather Joan Tam came to us as a student from UBC and she really likes the work. But in 2010, she lost her position because we lost the gaming grant. We would have had to close if it wasn’t for our volunteers. The municipality came through with a grant and in March, we were able to hire Heather back for Sunday and Monday. And we hope that we can at least maintain that.”
Underhill also spoke about the positive experience of working with students and about plans to paint the building and work on the garden. The historians envision a community celebration as they will not host the People, Plants and Places tour this year.
Councillor Peter Frinton asked about the difference in grant requests from last year. Underhill said, “Dorothy Lawson has been our archivist and she soon will not be able to get up the stairs. We need to get a paid archivist to work with her.”
Glen Bromley, treasurer of the Abbeyfield House of Bowen Island Society, spoke to his organization’s request for a municipal grant to cover 2011 taxes, estimated at $2,000. “Our plan is to build seniors’ housing. And we currently operate the better meals program through committed volunteers. This is a significant grant for Abbeyfield and we’d appreciate it.”
Pam Stimpson presented the Bowen Island Seniors’ Housing Co-operative application. “As you know, Bowen Court is the only affordable housing presently on the island. It has been operating since 1982 and a great deal of its infrastructure is beginning to fail. In spite of our efforts to keep housing costs down, we are now faced with large expenditures to repair, renovate or replace those items. We had hoped not having to replace the sewage system as we had anticipated the extension of the municipal sewer system along Miller Road. And we had been hoping that the money for the repairs could come out of the reserve account because our housing charges have gone up considerably this year, by 14 per cent. We feel this solution will negate the mandate why Bowen Court has been build in the first place. The situation is not improving and we are asking for $15,000. We are desperate.”
The Bowen United Church has applied for $8,475 to replace and insulate the roof of Collins Hall. Reverend Shelagh MacKinnon said, “The church serves as an informal community centre. It is administered by Kip Wallwork and his daughter Helen. Tonight, the 12-step program is there, last night it was the Sparks.”
Sheilagh McCall, the treasurer, said, “Collins Hall is so beautiful on the inside but the outside is not so good. So we want to put on a metal roof with better insulation. That would also offer better fire protection. Collins Hall is a busy place. It is used by many community groups; we ask for half the price of the replacement of the roof.”
When Councillor Nerys Poole asked about rental costs, MacKinnon said, “It’s just a buck but it’s a sliding scale. Sometimes we just ask for a donation to the food bank. It’s up to Helen’s discretion.”
Frinton said, “Your rents are very affordable, they’ve always been below market. Have you considered raising rents?”
MacKinnon said, “No, we want to be inclusive. And the Collins family sold that lot to the church for $1.”
Jack Headley, administrative director of the Tir-na-nOg Theatre School Society, spoke on behalf of the theatre arts program. “We started small, with one group, one production and we then had more and more students signing up. We provide a valuable opportunity for kids to learn about themselves. In 1995, we formed a non-profit organization with the expressed purpose of establishing a place where this could happen. We only had two criteria. One, that it was a useful place. And two, that it was affordable. Affordability was important and in December 2004, we moved into the facility in Cates Hill. And we’ve build a good facility. But it’s not affordable yet. But once the mortgage is paid off, the facility will be available for young people for $1 a month. At this point, this will be a valuable community asset. This year, we will have 85 performance events. Thirty-nine of them will be events by other community groups and some theatre from off island.”
Headley said that Tir-na-nOg’s funding has been dwindling. He said, “Now, we function at less. No one is paid for anything. It is all volunteer-driven. For this, the $10,000 grant would be significant.”
Close to 70 students are currently enrolled in the theatre school. That count doesn’t include the summer programs. But at fees of $500 per kid for the school year, the company needs help. Headley said, “Every young person who wants to do theatre can do that. We have several students who are on bursary. We are keeping it affordable.” He closed by inviting the councillors to come and have a look at the facility.
April Bosshard applied to council on behalf of Kids for Kids, a project where children make a quilt for children in Japan. Bosshard said, “On Bowen, we have four schools involved and have made about 70 or 80 squares. All the pieces will be sewn together and will be unveiled on Canada Day. Quilts are a symbol of comfort and care.” Bosshard asked for a practical contribution of $200 towards fabric paint, pens, needles and thread.
The Bowen Agricultural Alliance Society has approached the municipality for the funding of BowFEAST, the monthly farmers’ market, and BAA community workshops in the amount of $2,000. Elle Glave, BowFEAST project manager, said, “I’ve been volunteering my time for five years. This year, we are ramping it up. We had the first market in May. And we have the harvest box program. If possible, we want to be able to donate local produce to the food bank and the school lunch program.”
The financial support for the position of the community school coordinator is also included under the listing of the core grants. Organizations who have applied for grant money but didn’t make a presentation include the Bowen Island Gymnastics Club ($13,000), the Coast Animals Welfare and Education Society ($2,000), the Bowen Island Family Place Association ($10,000), the Bowen Island Community Fair Association ($2,000) and the Mother Goose Parent and Child Programs ($1,575).
The aim of the municipal community grants is to “improve the well being of the Bowen Island community as a whole.” All of the applications have provided documentation on need and eligibility. Council faces a hard choice in selecting the grants recipients, and the corresponding amounts.