By Nikki Jamieson
Sunny South News
Going forward, grant funding will be provided to several community hubs in the county.
During their regular Feb. 20 meeting, council discussed a proposed change to their community grant program.
During the 2020 budget discussions, council expressed interest in changing how the county’s Community Grant Program is administered and awarded.
The county’s current Community Grant Policy No. 176 is administered by the Financial and Community Services departments.
The grant program aims to support the development and delivery of sport, social, cultural and recreational programs, and applications are reviewed and rated using a scoring methodology based on specific criteria outlined in the policy. Council reviews the staff recommendations before making the decision on which organizations receive funding.
The program has been in place for the past two years, however in 2019, only six out of 17 applicants met the grant criteria and were awarded funds. Three of the seventeen applications were redirected to the municipal reserve program as their projects were technically county-owned projects, and the remaining eight applicants did not meet the policy criteria to receive a grant.
Administration proposed three courses for council to take in regards to the program; maintain status quo, amend the policy to make it more accessible to more community groups for a broader range of purposes or they rescind the policy and provide annual funding to the seven community hall associations located throughout the county through the annual budgeting process, which was their recommended option.
“There is quite a bit of time and effort put in on this on behalf of certainly council and for administration to go through the advertising, the review process, the awarding, the payments and following up, ensuring we have the appropriate documentation on hand and so on, in order to issue the grants,” said Larry Randle, director of community services for the county, adding that last year’s applications had led to the consideration of the program.
“If council were to proceed with the recommendation that we have today, we feel it would be a big reduction of the burden of staff time and demand on our resources at the county, but it would still support the broader community and and align with the county’s Strategic Plan pillar of providing an outstanding quality of life, kind of assuming that those community halls do play kind of a pivotal role in the social fabric of Lethbridge County and it’s citizens.”
The community halls in question are McNally, Readymade, Diamond City, Shaughnessy, Turin, Monarch and Sundial.
Coun. Morris Zeinstra said he thought they should include the Prairie Tractor Club on that list, due to the amount of work they do in the county.
“They basically do the same things as all these halls,” said Zeinstra.
Coun. Tory Campbell noted for clarity’s sake that when they discussed it during budget deliberations last year, it had been “clearly stated” to administration that it was for community halls, and he didn’t think it was “intentional by any stretch to leave them out” but rather a misunderstanding.
“I think we’ve seen over the past year and a half too, various community halls come forward and request funding, and we were looking at this as an option where those community halls would have ongoing — of course, according to the budget or depending on the budget — sustainable funding, so they would know that every year they had a certain amount of money to address some of their issues,” said Ann Mitchell, CAO for the county.
“And that would help the county, because we would know exactly how much we were doling out, and they would also know how much they were getting in.”
Reeve Lorne Hickey asked if this would be an annual thing or is it would just be for 2020. Jennifer Place, manager of finance and administration for the county, said that council had approved $10,000 annually for the community grant during budget deliberations, and that is were the funds would come from, rather than doing the grant applications and dispersing the funds that way. Council would approve those funds during budget deliberations going forward.
“There are still options for funding for other groups to receive through the Donations Policy, as well as the Council Discretionary Reserve, should a request come forward outside of these,” said Place.
Council unanimously passed a motion that Community Grant Policy No. 176 be rescinded and further, that a $10,000 grant to each of the seven community hall associations located in the county and also include the Prairie Tractor Museum be provided in 2020, subject to the satisfaction of county administration, that each group is able to lawfully receive and appropriately manage such funds on behalf of their respective organizations.