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Council divvies up $129,000

It was a long, difficult process that will disappoint some people - except perhaps for those whose top priority is holding the line on property taxes. On Monday, council approved a total of $129,000 in community grants.

It was a long, difficult process that will disappoint some people - except perhaps for those whose top priority is holding the line on property taxes.

On Monday, council approved a total of $129,000 in community grants. As Mayor Bob Turner noted at the beginning of the two-hour discussion, all municipal departments have seen reductions in their budgets yet the total allocation for grants to help community groups remained the same as last year.

Probably the most disappointed by the process will be the residents of Bowen Court. They initially asked for $11,000 for much needed infrastructure repairs and improvements. However, because the housing complex is privately owned, and the funding will primarily benefit only the people who live there, council felt that its applications didn't fall within the guidelines.

Sensitive to its needs, however, it held out the olive branch of working with the seniors co-operative in resolving its money worries.

Perhaps the most relieved group was the Bowen Island Arts Council. It asked for $55,000 plus $7,500 for the Gallery @ Artisan Square, which it operates; it will receive $58,000.

Councillors were deluged with emails and phone calls in support of the arts council, highlighting its role in supporting and nurturing local artists as well as aiding economic development.

Councillor Nerys Poole advocated in favour of the full request.

"We've received tremendous benefit from only a small amount of money," she said. "Arts and culture are as important as recreation... They are a lead organization in the cultural master plan but everything we've said [in the plan] is not followed up by financial support."

Turner, like other councillors, supported the idea of giving more money to the arts council but said that money would have to come out of grants for other organizations.

Tir-na-nOg theatre school supporters also flooded council with letters. Councillors were impressed by the passion people had for the theatre as a place where they could develop personal as well as acting skills. Discussion about its request for $10,000 engendered the longest debate.

Frinton said he that he "knows all the arguments about reducing payments but it pales to the value we receive from Tirnanog as a benefit."

Councillor Cro Lucas noted that Tir-na-nOg has just lost $36,000 from the Seymour Bay Foundation, which has exhausted its ability to provide community grants. He wanted to give Tir-na-nOg more money than suggested.

Councillor Alison Morse said that as an accountant, there were times she had to tell clients that they were throwing money into a bottomless pit. Was Tin-na-nOg sustainable?

Tir-na-nOg director Jack Headley said, "How can we proceed? Sheer tenacity. We've gone into a great deal of personal debt to support it and we're still kicking. Every little bit helps."

The requested $10,000 would pay expenses for three months and "gets us into September which is our core season."

Councillor Doug Hooper said, "I'd like to take it all the way to the $10,000. This is an exceptional position they're in. Bursary policy is so generous, speaks volumes of the accessibility of the program. Over past few years the facility has been made more accessible to other groups so it's becoming another one of our community groups."

There are contingency plans, Headley said. Staff is willing to work on volunteer basis and he's willing to get a job outside the theatre school. "We're not just laying back and saying help us help us. We are working on this."

After cutting funding from other requests, council granted Tir-na-nOg $9,000.

Bowen Island Historians asked for $54,600 so it could hire an archivist to take over from the volunteer duties provided by Dorothy Lawson. It needs a trained archivist to be eligible for federal grants. Council granted $25,000, which was last year's amount.

The gymnastics club was given $1,000 to help replace equipment. It had asked for a total of $15,220.

When it came to Family Place's request for $10,000, Councillor David Wrinch wondered why there had to be such a co-ordinated place for parents to drop in with children.

Frinton said, "Having young children is a highly stressful period. Supporting this is the correct thing to do. We put $115,000 a year into teens. This amount of money for this program is well justified."

Poole said that Family Place was often the first contact for new families and helped them integrate. "When you come to a new community you don't know your neighbours or what's in the community. I know how important it is for mothers to go to someplace like this. I think we're getting a great deal."

Council approved the full amount.

There was debate before giving the United Church $5,000 for Collins Hall. (It had asked for $8,475.) Frinton argued it was a community hall used by many groups and people. Poole argued that places like Cates Hill Chapel were also community halls. Lucas noted that it was built on donated land with donated labour and council should be honouring that community spirit.

The heritage preservation?

Bowfest and CAWES got their requests for $2,000; Abbeyfield House got $1,875 of its request for $2,000; the district school board will get its request of $11,114 for the municipality's share of the community school co-ordinator's position. The Mother Goose program got its full $1,575 request. The agriculture alliance got half of its $,2000 request.