Coun. Gary Burroughs says the town needs a committee to oversee discretionary spending. Evan Loree, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Two months ahead of Canada Day, community groups hosting celebration events will get $12,500 of support from the municipality.

Niagara-on-the-Lake’s council approved two grants for the Rotary Club and Friends of Fort George for its planned festivities this July 1.

Lord Mayor Gary Zalepa brought the two groups’ requests to council April 24, and councillors spent almost half an hour discussing the grant requests.

Council gave The Friends of Fort George $10,000, after they asked for $15,000 to cover the cost of fireworks and $1,000 for cake.

Coun. Nick Ruller, seeing the town gave $10,000 before the pandemic suggested they give the community group what they gave two years ago and make the remainder eligible for the town’s discretionary grant program.  

In addition to $10,000 for fireworks, council also granted $1,000 for cake.

The Rotary Club requested $5,000 for its annual barbecue but council only gave it $1,500 after Coun. Maria Mavridis pointed out that’s what they spent in previous years.

Mavridis shared her concerns, later telling The Lake Report council had to make a decision on the request quickly but was uncomfortable granting the full request.

The town is using money in its discretionary funding program to support the two groups, reintroduced in this year’s budget.

“We cannot make this happen in 2023 without the town’s financial support,” Rotary Club president Greg Fedoryn said in an email to the town, referring to the Canada Day barbecue.

However, a couple of councillors were reluctant to give out the money, since there is no committee yet to oversee the funding.

“We’re not ready to make decisions because we don’t have our discretionary committee in place,” said Coun. Sandra O’Connor.

Zalepa pointed out the town began budget talks late this year because of the 2022 election. 

As a result, he said, the discretionary spending program came back on board before council could set up a committee.

“We haven’t had the luxury of pulling the committee together to do that kind of work,” he said.

Concerned about cancelled celebrations, Zalepa said Canada Day is “very important in our community,” and “the only way” for celebrations to go ahead is to bring these requests before council and get approval.

“Either you do that, or you don’t, and it’s your decision,” he said.

Alongside council’s approval of funding for the Friends of Fort George and the Rotary Club, it requested an update from staff on the creation of a discretionary funding committee.

Coun. Gary Burroughs, who championed the decision to bring back discretionary funding this year, said he’s worried residents have yet to get the memo that the program is back.

“All those groups that could use a helping hand, we’re now responding to on a one-off basis, which is totally wrong,” he said.

Town treasurer Kyle Freeborn said staff is setting up spending guidelines for the future committee.

Freeborn said a staff report on forming the committee should be ready later in May.

By Evan Loree, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on May 11, 2023 at 11:20

This item reprinted with permission from   The Lake Report   Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario
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