Members of the Sports Day Committee, organizers of Valemountain Days, are upset the Village declined to waive fees for use of the Community Hall and Community Theatre for the June festival.
“I think they are drawing the line in the wrong spot,” says Gord Peters, member of the Committee. He says he understands Council rationale, and he has heard their recent responses to other requests to waiving the fees, but he thinks it is going to look embarrassing when the committee goes to the Regional District looking for support for a community event. He estimates the cost of waiving the fees the committee was asking for to be about $600 in total, around $10 per hour for the theatre, and $150 per day for the hall.
This is the 35th anniversary of Valemountain Days, and after being drastically cut back last year due to low volunteers, the community has rallied around the summer festival again. New volunteers have come forward with plans for new events as well as reviving old events.
“It is a community event to celebrate Valemount,” says resident Ellen Van Der Wilk. She says it’s an event where the community pulls together, businesses donate and sponsor, and people are generously donating to it.
“Valemountain Days is for the members of the community to celebrate who they are,” she says.
At the council meeting, acting mayor Dallas Bullock said “I would like to refer all non-profits who are applying to have fees waived for facilities in town to first apply for the Regional District Grant-in-Aid.”
She said the Regional District has a certain number of dollars each year to grant to non-profits for events like the festival, and the Village itself is in the process of determining how much it should allot each year to help non-profits.
Anne Yanciw, Chief Administrative Officer for the Village, says an assessment by Public Works of what the Village does to support the festival exceeds $5,100 in staff time, plus propane, power, and other consumables like toilet paper. She estimates the Village supports the festival with about one per cent of the tax money collected each year. Village staff normally does things for the festival like setting up tents and tarps, barricades for the parade, clean-up and maintenance of the ball diamonds, picnic tables, horseshoe pits, and concession building (which underwent a significant repair in 2013 due to a burst water pipe) and set-up and clean-up of the logger events area.
Mayor Andru McCracken, who was absent for that meeting, says it was a difficult decision, but he thinks it is something the community can work through.
“The bigger question here,” said McCracken, “is how do we strategically fund buildings that are important to the community, and make it sustainable for the long term?”
Yanciw says the cost to maintain the Community Hall in 2013 was $16,106, just for basic things like electricity, propane, supplies like lights and toilet paper, cleaning and basic maintenance. That doesn’t include renovations and more extensive maintenance. She says the village only recovered $7,260 from leasing and renting last year, so taxpayers subsidized the remaining almost $9,000. Yanciw says local governments are limited in the ways they can generate revenue, and user fees are an easy-to-understand way to recover costs, while allotting some of the cost of an activity to the people taking part, not spreading it amongst those who are not.
The Community Theatre is not a Village asset, but is managed by the Village under a community use agreement with School District 57. The agreement also covers things like the gym and equipment rentals, and rental fees go into a special fund with its own rules, not into village coffers.
“Valemountain Days is a community event, and we are using community facilities,” says Charlotte Abernathy, president of the Sports Day Committee. “I do not know why the council would reject our request when the fees were waived in other years.”
Abernathy says the committee will be applying to the Regional District for the fees for the theatre and the area, which she estimates is around $380 per day. If they don’t get a grant then the fees will have to be recouped through admission prices, which they were already considering, or they will have to scale back on some planned events. She says the committee is still looking for sponsorship and grants, and the price of admission will depend on what support they get.