PORT McNEILL — After considerable discussion, a divided Port McNeill council turned down a request by the Chamber of Commerce to increase its fee for service to operate the town’s Visitor Information Centre and instead voted Mar. 21 to renew funding for one year at the current level of $20,000.
The council also voted to continue funding the Chamber through Town business licenses.
The Chamber had requested an allocation of $25,000 for each of three years, saying that amount represented half of the $50,000 annual cost of operating the visitors’ centre.
Previously, the fee for service agreement with the Chamber had been approved for three-year terms. But some councillors argued that, with an election scheduled for this fall, the current council should not saddle a potential new council with long-term contracts.
“I don’t favour an increase (in funding),” councillor Shelley Downey said. “But I believe three years is the right way to go. It provides stability, because the VIC has many of its own contracts that have to be established in advance.”
But councillors were concerned the Chamber’s submitted accounting paperwork did not adequately separate Visitor Centre costs from the Chamber’s general budget. And Mayor Gerry Furney said he would like to see the Chamber spend more of its resources promoting and supporting the town’s resource-based industries.
“The (membership) numbers seem low,” councillor Aaron Frost said of the Chamber budget. “And the expenses seem high. There seem to be numbers missing.”
All of the councillors quickly agreed to turn down the requested funding increase and renew the contract at $20,000. But the term of the agreement was anything but unanimous.
Gaby Wickstrom submitted a motion to fund the VIC operations at $20,000 for the full three years. Downey seconded the motion with an amendment to reduce the term to two years, noting that the Chamber’s bookkeeping should be reviewed during that period.
Wickstrom and Downey voted for the amended motion; Frost and councillor Shirley Ackland voted against it, bringing Furney in as the tie-breaking vote.
“I have to say no,” said Furney. “Our businesses require the support of the chamber and we have to answer to all of the community. The Chamber needs to look at the (resource-based) businesses that make Port McNeill possible.
Ackland then countered with a motion for the one-year funding term followed by a review of the Chamber’s books, which was seconded by Frost. Wickstrom and Downey voted no, but this time Furney cast his deciding vote in favour.
Chamber president Sharon Barratt and VIC manager Cheryl Jorgenson attended the meeting and answered questions from council.
Council approved the use of public works staff and a truck to haul away debris from the Communities in Bloom Society’s planned May 1 clearing of invasive plants, particularly the Scotch Broom growing along the side of Campbell Way.
The truck will make one tour of the town’s residential streets following the event, providing free pick-up of any invasive plant material removed from private property during the day.
Council approved requests from three groups for in-kind or monetary contributions. CIBC Port McNeill was donated three swimming lesson passes for its annual BC Children’s Hospital raffle. Operation Trackshoes was offered $100 each for up to three local participants to attend the sports competition in Victoria in June. The BC Seniors Games was approved for a $100 contribution.
In its previous meeting, Mar. 7, council appointed Sue Harvey Chief Elections officer and Karen Cessford Deputy Election Officer for conducting the 2011 general local elections.