Council approves funding envelope for 2021 community grants

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North Grenville Council has approved a funding envelope of $140,000 for community grants this year. Council considered a total of 15 grant requests at the meeting on Tuesday, February 2, as part of the municipality’s 2021 operating budget deliberations. This was after hearing presentations from most of the organizations and community groups on January 19, when council was able to learn more about what the money would be used for, and ask questions.

A few of the requests that came in were relatively straightforward for council to consider, including a $15,300 grant for expanding counselling services at Beth Donovan Hospice, and $12,500 for Seniors Community Services’ escorted transportation service.

“Some of the items are regular items that we see every year, and I’d like to see, probably in the future, that they just be budget items, so we don’t see them popping up every year,” Deputy Mayor Jim McManaman said.

Other grant requests garnered more discussion around the table, including a $13,000 request from the Oxford Mills Community Association to install a generator and better Wi-Fi capacity in Maplewood Hall. According to Director of Emergency and Protective Services, John Okum, Maplewood Hall is designated as an emergency gathering place for the hamlet of Oxford Mills. CAO Gary Dyke suggested that staff consider this request internally and report back to council with costs, as Director of Public Works, Karen Dunlop, indicated that there may be some cost savings if the municipality takes on the project.

Councillor Doreen O’Sullivan raised some concern about the event-based requests, including the Surya Yoga Festival ($7,232), Kemptville BuskerFest ($16,600), and Meet Me On Main Street ($11,450).

“My concern is, given the news tonight about vaccines and COVID, I really don’t think any large gatherings are going to be advisable this year at all,” she said.

Councillor Kristin Strackerjan said that she would like to see council support these events, even if they may not be able to take place this year. “The way I look at the yoga festival or the BuskerFest is that I would like to see support for them even if it winds up not being possible, because I think there is a great opportunity there.” Councillor John Barclay agreed, stating that he didn’t think they should be predicting where they will be in the fall or spring regarding COVID-19. “If it has to be postponed or cancelled due to COVID, then that’s what will happen and the funds won’t be expended,” he said. “I would like to see both the yoga festival and BuskerFest supported by this council in the hopes that they are able to take place later in the year.”

One submission that came in late in the process was from the North Grenville Historical Society (NGHS) for $30,000 to write an official history of North Grenville in anticipation of the 25th anniversary of amalgamation in 2023. The request also includes a magazine-style publication to recognize the 230th anniversary of Oxford-on-Rideau this year. Because the request was submitted late, Mayor Peckford canvassed council about whether they should defer consideration until 2022. Councillor Doreen O’Sullivan commented that, if council did defer the request until next year, there might not be time to complete the history in time. “I’m just kind of thinking that if there’s some of these things that we cannot do this year, then maybe we could even partially fund that,” she said.

As some councillors had further questions about a few of the requests, council decided to approve the funding envelope only, and reach back out to some of the organizations or community groups for more information. “If it’s not settled on now, it can be revisited by council based on finding more information, or any other circumstances going forward,” CAO Dyke said.

Because of a few requests that came in late, including the one from the NGHS and a $3,500 request from Bishops Mills Community Association to paint the roof of their community hall, the 2021 community grants budget was raised from $125,000 to $140,000. CAO Dyke says this will have no affect on the 0% 2021 budget increase. Deputy Mayor McManaman noted that this amount is only about .75% of the entire budget, and that he feels many of the organizations and community groups bring great value to the community. “I think it adds up to quite a bit of goodwill and good value to our community,” he said.

Council is looking forward to having a more robust structure and process for community grants in the coming years to make sure that the public and taxpayers know exactly what is expected in an application for funds. “I think we all look forward to a more streamlined process for next year that will enable us to perhaps have a slightly easier conversation than the one we are having this year,” Mayor Peckford said. “But I want to thank all of the community groups in the community for coming forward as they have and being innovative and creative and fiscally prudent, in terms of wanting to see certain things off the ground and doing it in ways that are efficient and important for the quality of life of so many of our residents.”

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