Merrickville Wolford Council approved the Community Grants for 2020 at a special council meeting on June 22. The staff report stated that the Village had received a total of 14 grant applications for 2020, out of which four were disqualified because they did not meet the requirements outlined in the Municipality’s Community Grants policy in 2019. Run Merrickville, Christmas in Merrickville, and Merrickville Jazz Fest were disqualified, because they donated excess money to charity last year, which is not allowed under the policy. Canalfest was also disqualified, because they didn’t submit a final report after their event, which is required for the organization to receive future funds. Of the other events, four were cancelled due to COVID-19. This left only two funding requests and four fee waivers for council to consider, totalling only $3,019 out of the $13,000 earmarked for 2020 community grants. Councillor Timothy Molloy voiced his concern at the meeting about disqualifying so many of the organizations from the grants program, because their events are essential elements of the community. He asked staff whether they had contacted the organizations to remind them to submit their final report. Councillor Bob Foster also had similar concerns, stating that many of these organizations are volunteer-run and different people organize the events every year. “I certainly wouldn’t want to see grant applications discarded because an entirely different board or group of volunteers failed to meet the requirements,” he said.
Treasurer, Kirsten Rahm, said at the meeting that the requirement to submit a final report was outlined in a letter sent with the grant cheque last year. “The report was also provided to them in the same envelope the cheque was,” she said. She also reminded council that Canalfest was the only group which was disqualified because they did not submit a final report. The other organizations were not eligible because they had given excess funds to a charity of their choice, which is not allowed under the Community Grants policy. “It’s not just a matter of not filing a report,” CAO Doug Robertson added. “Some of these agencies have taken public funds and re-donated it to a cause they believe in.”
Councillor Bob Foster said he believes that the policy is a good idea, but they needed to show a bit of mercy towards their community groups, as it is still early days. “I think this program is an excellent idea,” he said. “It does promote accountability, and I am glad it is putting a stop to flow through funding.”
At the suggestion of Mayor Doug Struthers, council approved the Community Grant applications as suggested by municipal staff, and requested that they reach out to Canalfest to give them another chance to submit their report. “Please, Canalfest, get your report in,” Mayor
Struthers said at the meeting. “Even if you are not having one this year, it keeps you in good stead for future years.”
The staff report also suggested that excess funds be used to offset any corporate deficit due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Council seemed to agree that they would rather wait to see if there will be any COVID-19 relief funds available to municipalities from the provincial or federal government before allocating this surplus to any future deficit due to the pandemic. The money allocated for community grants in the 2020 budget will remain in the coffers for any group that might want to hold their event, or even a new event, later in the year. Mayor Struthers suggests that any group wanting to hold an event that will be beneficial to the business community put in a request to council for support. “Money will stay in this account for council to consider down the road,” he said.