Written By Derek Koel
Port McNeill’s plans to hold regular Committee of the Whole (COTW) meetings has been falling apart as of late.
Three months worth of meetings have now been canceled, with no reason given, as the last meeting was held back in July.
With that said, council and staff were back on track this month and the scheduled Nov. 7 meeting went ahead, albeit without Coun. Michelle Carson in attendance, who was absent.
The two-hour meetings are generally planned for the first Tuesday of each month at 9 a.m. sharp in the council chambers.
The meetings are informal, and are designed to create recommendations that officially get passed at the main council meetings that are usually held twice a month.
Perhaps the lack of COTW meetings is due to there being no new business at hand, as the Nov. 7 meeting had only one agenda item, and the meeting only lasted for about 10 minutes.
That lone agenda item was a request from the Anglican United Fellowship Church of Canada, also known as the A-Frame Church, located at 175 Cedar Street, Port McNeill.
Mayor James Furney noted the reason they were all gathered there that day was to consider the A-Frame Church’s request for $25,000 of year after year funding “for their endeavors in town.”
Those endeavors were outlined by Bishop Warden Craig Murray via his request letter to council, in which he listed the various programs and classes that the church offers, mostly related to exercise, music, food, seniors, children and of course, spirituality.
It seems, however, their food (bank) program is keeping them the busiest and putting the most strain on their finances.
Murray stated that the church is requesting an annual contribution from the Town of Port McNeill.
“We will use these funds to purchase fuel for our home delivery program, obtain supplies for the greenhouse and community garden, and administer our volunteer operated programs.”
The letter listed the various local retailers and supporters of their food programs, but information was less specific about funding and support they receive from individual/corporate donors and federal/provincial programs. “However,” Murray notes, “most of these supporters will only offer one-off donations or grants,” and the church needs “sustainable and committed long-term financial support.”
After the mayor’s opening of the meeting, longtime Coun. Shelley Downey quickly broke the ice and came out in support of the A-Frame church, praising the work they do and all their programs.
“They are connected and know where the need is,” Downey said.
The two-time federal Conservative candidate quickly changed her tune though when it came to the $25,000 dollar funding request.
“As a municipal government I don’t think it is our area to fund social agencies,” she stated.
Coun. Leighann Ruel echoed Downy’s comments, adding she was concerned that “it’s continual funding,” and “I question if all opportunities for funding were explored.”
Furney then wrapped things up and called for a vote with “I’m feeling this is denied.”
Coun. Ann-Marie Baron was present at the meeting but did not speak on the matter.
The official unanimous recommendation was to “deny the request of an annual contribution of $25,000 for the Anglican United Fellowship.”
The recommendations didn’t stop there. Council decided that staff “send a letter of support for the work the Anglican United Fellowship is doing with the food bank.”
The town had previously granted the A-Frame Church $10,000 in 2021, as per the church’s report to council. At the time, the money was spent as follows; $4,215.62 at Courtenay Appliances, $2,974.18 at the local IGA, and $4,380 was paid to the instructors of fitness related classes.
As per bylaw 693-2019, the Town of Port McNeill annually exempts the owners of the A-Frame Church, the United Church of Canada, from its property tax bill, which last year was $1,358.
This same “permissive tax exemption” is granted to four other churches in town, all five total $7,352 in forgone tax revenue.
Bylaw 693 is renewed every five years and is up for renewal in 2024.