A grant proposal from the West Shore Chamber of Commerce became an issue of contention with a few Colwood residents at a recent committee of the whole meeting.
Last week the chamber asked for $42,750 from Colwood to go towards hosting events and promoting economic development in the West Shore in general and in Colwood in particular.
Some of the money is to come from the Colwood Solar community outreach funding, which can provide funds up to $8,075 for community events in exchange for promotion.
In 2011 the City contributed a total of $31,500 to the chamber, which went towards such events as the Off the Grid Festival, the Mother’s Day Paint In and the Solar Colwood launch.
West Shore chamber CEO Dan Spinner said the money helped them raise more than $300,000 in grants and in-kind support to go towards community programs, events and activities.
From the grant request, $10,000 would go towards ongoing development of the Emily Carr Arts and Education Centre project, which the chamber is working on in conjunction with School District 62. The centre would accompany the proposed new secondary school in Royal Bay.
Some members of the public spoke at the meeting, questioning the appropriateness of the City giving money raised through property taxes to an organization with a mandate to promote business.
Colwood resident and former council candidate Duane McNeill said he has concerns that the portion of the grant for economic and business development is increasing from $2,500 in 2011 to $12,000 in 2012, a jump he feels inappropriate considering the state of the economy.
He and several others also questioned why the City is considering giving $10,000 to the Emily Carr project when the concept has never come before the public for approval.
“Times are tight and we’re trying to keep our budget to the bare minimum for increases,” McNeill said. “Basically I just think that this is excessive and that we should really question why.”
Spinner said at the meeting the grant proposal is a “shopping list” and that it’s ultimately up to council which pieces, if any, it wishes to support. He also said he would make a full presentation of the Emily Carr project.