Council giving out $111,015 in grants this year
By Chet Greason
Town Council has added $111,015 in grants to this year’s draft budget, including $10,000 to the River Rock Music Festival, $10,000 to the St. Marys Station Gallery, and $5,000 to purchase sound equipment for the Front Porch Show (as well as other locals who may wish to use it.)
Grants were reviewed at a budget meeting held at the Municipal Operations Centre on Tuesday, Jan. 30. In total, $91,987 in cash was tentatively promised, including an annual stipend of $50,000 to the St. Marys Memorial Hospital Foundation that had been previously budgeted. The town will lose $19,028 in revenue due to in-kind donations and will add $15,000 to the tax levy for costs that are outside what was originally budgeted for grants, resulting in a $34,000 impact to the 2018 draft budget.
Sean Camp, organizer of the River Rock Music Festival, presented a delegation to Council regarding his ask of $10,000. He noted his music festival has grown over its past three iterations, which have all been held on the rural property he rents near Science Hill. He has long wanted to expand the Festival, and has had designs on moving it into St. Marys since its inception.
According to Camp, last year’s Festival was its first year in the black, generating $5,000 in profits according to a report included in the Council package. Past River Rock Festivals have been funded out-of-pocket by Camp himself.
He said he hoped the town’s support will allow him to book big name acts. Typically, the Festival’s talent budget hovers around the $1,600 – $1,900 mark. Camp said he was pushing for $13,000 this year in order to attract some well-known performers.
In addition, he hopes to increase the number of vendors, as well as expanding the Festival’s current workshop and food programming. He also says he’d like to work in close conjunction with the BIA in order to promote the town during the Festival itself.
Lastly, he’d like to book a larger stage. Previous Festivals have used a semi-trailer as a performance platform.
Camp noted he has looked at three potential locations for the Festival in town: Lions Park off Milt Dunnell Field, Kin Park on the south side of Trout Creek, and The Quarry. He says natural aesthetic plays an important role in the spirit of the Festival, as does close proximity to the river (hence its name).
Council was enthusiastic about the Music Festival moving into St. Marys. Councillor Bill Osborne said it will “really have an economic impact,” while Coun. Carey Pope said it will be a “huge benefit” to the town.
Council initially discussed the requirement of a partnership agreement between Camp and the town before okaying the grant, but that was later downgraded to a memorandum of understanding between the two.
The St. Marys Station Gallery grant came at the end of the grant deliberation portion of the meeting as director of corporate services and deputy clerk Trisha McKibbin had already prepared a report regarding the Gallery’s request for support. She was directed to do so after Gallery co-curators Reed Needles and Cameron Porteus presented a delegation to Council in September requesting support.
McKibbin’s recommendation was for Council to offer money to the Gallery via the grant program, allowing Needles and Porteus’ project to remain independently run and leaving them tenants of the Train Station. The $10,000 is meant to fund eight annual exhibits at $750 each, as well as pay Porteus and Needles to staff the gallery through an honorarium of $500 per exhibit. An extra $500 is included for miscellaneous costs, such as insurance.
Pope asked Porteus, who was present at the meeting, if he would also consider providing the town with an annual report. Porteus said he would.
The Front Porch Show, represented at the meeting by Rob Edney, was asking for $5,000 to purchase sound equipment. Councillor Don Van Galen, who acts as the emcee of the live talk show-style production that broadcasts from the front porch of John and Marie Stevens, excused himself from the proceedings due to a conflict of interest.
Under discussion, it came out that the plan was for the town to purchase and keep the equipment, storing it on town property and lending it out to the Front Porch Show or anyone else that may want to use it. The ask came with a cost estimate from Long and McQuade music store in Stratford, which included a digital piano ($608), a powered mixer ($459), eight dynamic microphones ($952), and a powered loudspeaker ($938).
Council wished to support the idea, although Coun. Jim Craigmile wondered if the grant request came too early in the show’s short lifespan (it premiered this past summer) and Pope wondered if the town might be able to make the purchase a capital expense and find grant money to pay for it.
Mayor Al Strathdee took issue with the town appearing to endorse the show, noting it was held on private property in a residential neighbourhood. Edney, during his pitch, had mentioned that crowds were growing with each new show, and that organizers were planning on chartering buses so residents from area retirement homes could attend. Strathdee noted this could cause a potential hazard should emergency vehicles not be able to access the site due to buses, and more sound means potential noise complaints from neighbours.
“Normally, the town endorses public events on public spaces,” he said. “We have rules, zoning bylaws, and people have rights.
“If we do this, we’re kind of quasi-endorsing it and we have to think that through.”
Edney answered that if the crowds, buses, and noise generated by the show causes issues, they would relocate.
“If it came down to it, we’d be more than compliant in moving it,” he said.
Other grants discussed that evening included the following:
· The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame was granted $5,700 for their Induction festivities.
· Organizers of the Canada Day Parade requested $2,500 in cash and $500 in in-kind donations. However, Council instead decided to grant them $1,200, the same amount as was given last year.
· Holy Name of Mary School asked for $4,425 for their outdoor learning space but was denied.
· The Kinsmen asked for $5,000 cash in addition to the in-kind support they typically receive from the town for their annual SummerFest celebration. However, Council noted the event generated its own revenue, and denied the cash grant while still agreeing to provide the same in-kind support it did last year.
· After much deliberation, The Piecemakers Quilt Show had part of their rental fees at the PRC waived, the equivalent of a $4,000 in-kind donation.
· Quilt Squared, a travelling exhibit that will return to the Museum this year, was granted $576.
· Save VIA, now operating under the banner of All Aboard St. Marys, was granted the same amount of money they received from Council last year: $4,425.
· The St. Marys Community Players were granted $2,571 in order to purchase communication headsets.
· Stratford/Perth Shelterlink asked for $2,500 for their Living Options for Youth and Emergency Community Placement program, but as no one from the organization was present to explain exactly what was needed, Council denied the grant. It was also noted that Council already supports Shelterlink through other funding, including grants via the United Way.
· Family Services Perth-Huron asked for $9,500 to support their counselling services. They were granted half that – $4,750 – after it was learned that Stratford donates $9,500 every year. Coun. Don Van Galen noted St. Marys shouldn’t be paying as much as Stratford due to the difference in population.
· The Stratford Perth Community Foundation asked for $5,000 for their Smart and Caring Fund but was granted $3,000 instead, the same amount they received last year.
· The St. Marys Beautification Committee was granted $2,500 in order to purchase flowers for the boxes that adorn the bridges in the summer.
· The United Way was granted $7,265.
· The St. Marys Lincolns submitted a slightly different grant this year, asking for the bartender fees to be waived at the Blue Line Club. Typically, the town pays bartenders through liquor sales, the remaining revenue going to the hockey club after all other expenses are subtracted. This new grant, which Council agreed to, will see the town foot the bill for the bartenders, the room rental fees, and the SOCAN licensing, costing $15,028.
· Two other items, listed as Town Initiatives, were also passed: The St. Marys High School Scholarship ($1,500) and the Community Meal ($1,000).
Following the grant discussion, Council voted down an option to increase staffing at the Museum from 1.5 full-time employees to 2, citing cost. As well, a possible addition to the fire hall that was discussed at Council’s last budget meeting will cost significantly more than what was originally estimated by director of building and development Grant Brouwer. Initially, Brouwer said extending the vehicle bays to accommodate larger fire trucks would cost the town around $30,000. However, that number would only cover the cost of design and engineering. The actual cost of the modifications is projected at $270,000.
It would cost the town an estimated $2 million to build a new fire hall.
Tuesday’s meeting brings the current levy increase up to 1.88 per cent. Council will next hold a public meeting to discuss the draft budget with residents. This will be held in the Council Chambers at Town Hall on Feb. 27.