Valemount Elementary kitchen
Chair of the Secondary School Parent Advisory Council Shanon Manahan participated in the public comments session of the March 26th regular Village Council meeting. She was disappointed to hear that the Council would not receive funding, she told The Goat. / ABIGAIL POPPLE

By Abigail Popple, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, RMG

Results of this year’s Resident-Directed Grants (commonly referred to as ReDi Grants) have sparked some calls for transparency among Valemount-based organizations.

Funded by the Columbia Basin Trust, ReDi Grants are distributed annually to local organizations. Because one condition of ReDi funding is the opportunity for resident input on grant decisions, Valemount has a public engagement session each year before the grant adjudication committee makes its decisions. 

Organizations present their grant application to an audience of residents, who then complete a survey – available both online and on paper – to determine how much community support there is for a project. Respondents score each project on a scale of zero to five, with zero meaning “not supported” and five meaning “highly supported.”

According to results from the 2024 survey, which received 358 responses, the Valemount Elementary School Parent Advisory Council (PAC) had the highest level of community support, with 74.67 per cent of respondents expressing support.

The Elementary School PAC’s proposed project was a kitchen renovation, for which they were seeking $69K. PAC member Isla Jackman told The Goat the denial was a frustrating setback, especially for an organization run by busy parent volunteers.

“In our planning for the year, these are the types of grants that we feel confident in spending our time on, because it’s the most locally supported grant that we have access to,” she said. “There’s other options and we will get back on our feet, but it just takes the wind out of our sails for the year.”

The second-most supported project, a travel fund organized by the Valemount Secondary School PAC, had their grant request denied for the same reason. The requested $20K would have gone towards sending students to out-of-town sports games and other educational opportunities, PAC members said during the ReDi public engagement session. 

Secondary School PAC Chair Shanon Manahan said the School District can’t subsidize the costs for sending students on long trips, meaning Valemount students may get left out of career fairs, sports games, and other events.

“If you’re low-income you may not have $100 to spend on a kid [for travel costs],” she said. “It’s not the kids’ fault that they have social barriers. They should be afforded the same opportunities and privileges as the kids in the cities.”

Both Jackman and Manahan felt the adjudication process was opaque – concerns they raised at the March 26th Village Council meeting where grant decisions were made.

“If the [adjudication] committee had had better questions about what we were missing or why they said no, I would have appreciated that,” Jackman told The Goat.

Manahan agreed more feedback and transparency would be appreciated.

“If it’s a community-based committee, why can’t I find the minutes to their meetings?” she asked.

Manahan also said the adjudication committee could have reflected a more diverse demographic, including parents.

In an email to The Goat, Village CAO Anne Yanciw said the opportunity to join the adjudication committee was advertised in The Goat, put on the Village website and Facebook page, and included in the community newsletter.

“The Village, like many organizations, is challenged in finding volunteers. We would be delighted to see more volunteers apply,” she said.

Yanciw added that the Council and adjudication committee have to consider more factors than just resident feedback.

“The committee considers resident feedback very carefully,” she said. “The Trust cannot support projects that are the responsibility of government […] and that was one factor the committee considered when making their recommendations.”

Two other organizations had their applications denied: the Valemount Curling Club and the Valemount Community Sports Day Association. 

The Curling Club had requested just over $50K to repair the exterior door to the curling rink, which does not close properly and accumulates a significant amount of frost around its frame. A board member of the Curling Club, who asked to stay anonymous, said they were disappointed in the denial.

While the Curling Club is looking into other grants, the board member said it would be difficult to secure other funding because many grants require a portion of the total funds to already be raised.

“It’s unfortunate that the grant wasn’t given even in part,” they said. “That would help because we could go to other grant sources and have the total [of the two] end up somewhere close to the amount needed to complete the project.”

The Valemount Community Sports Day Association hoped to use their requested $57.5K to create a master plan, which would have informed how to repair ageing infrastructure and collect community feedback for a plan going forward. Among other reasons like its high cost, their request was denied because the committee determined the plan falls under the responsibility of the local government, so the Trust will not fund it, according to President Laura Keil.

“I would say [the items in the plan] are above and beyond what [the Village is] required to do. That said, I understand why the committee may have made that decision,” Keil told The Goat.

Keil said the Association will work with the Village to find another way to make the plan. The Association and Village will be soliciting community feedback before any decisions are made, she said.

While just over $372K was available for ReDi grants this year, only about $248K was approved for grants – meaning around $124K will be rolled over into next year.

Members of the five organizations whose applications were approved told The Goat about their future plans.

Pump it Up! Committee Chair Sean Kelly said the committee is grateful to have received funding. The organization’s $120K request was approved, and will go towards funding the creation of a pump track in the village. Because other grants require applicants to have a substantial portion of money raised before they apply, the ReDi money will allow Pump it Up! to pursue other grants, Kelly said.

Patricia Thoni, a member of the Yellowhead Outdoor Recreation Association, was also pleased to see her organization’s request get approved, she told The Goat. The $22K will go towards brushing the road up Swift Mountain, making the space more accessible to drivers. Brushing will begin as soon as the road is clear of snow, Thoni said.

The Robson Valley Spay and Neuter Society had their $4K request approved. Money will go towards helping people afford to spay, neuter, and deworm adopted pets, organizer Wendy Cinnamon told The Goat. She added that funds will also be used to care for stray cats that the Society looks after before they get adopted into a permanent home.

The Valemount Entertainment Society was granted their requested $40K to upgrade audio/visual equipment and repair chain link fencing around their building, among other things. Society Coordinator Michael Peters said he is pleased to receive funding, and the resulting upgrades will benefit the Valemount community for years to come.

Finally, the Valemount Senior Citizens Housing Society had their request partially approved – $61K of $110K – to fund landscaping and furniture purchases for their Ash Street Housing project. The Society did not respond to The Goat’s request for comment.

For assistance in applying to future grants, organizations can meet with the Village grant writer, Taggart Wilson. He can be contacted by email at [email protected], or by phone at 250-566-4435.