Prince Rupert community groups outline requests for grants from the City

Last week, Prince Rupert community groups came out to city council to make their case for why the City should give them money.

This week, Prince Rupert community groups came out to city council to make their case for why the City should give them money.

The council held three days of meetings to hear from 19 groups looking to receive one of the city’s 2012 Community Enhancement Grants. At the meetings at City Hall,each group was given 15 minutes to make their presentation to explain what they do for Prince Rupert and justify why council should give them taxpayer money to help keep their work going.

Below is an outline of the groups seeking $10,000 or more.

Prince Rupert SPCA – $60,000

Lindsay Vincent from the Prince Rupert SPCA came to council asking for a grant of $60,0000 to help the local branch. Vincent explains that the SPCA’s income – which consists largely of donations, fees from adoptions or surrendering of pets, and grants – doesn’t come even close to covering the SPCA’s costs. In 2011 the Prince Rupert SPCA lost $165,000 and is expected to lose $170,500 this year. The provincial SPCA, which is partly funded by the province, must then make up this shortfall.

One of the reasons for this is because in communities like Prince Rupert and Port Edward, says Vincent, is that there is a lot of work for them to do. The SPCA is responsible for taking in people’s missing pets and strays brought in by people or the City’s bylaw officers, getting the animals fixed, educating the public and students about proper animal handling and welfare, investigating cruelty complaints, facilitating adoptions, putting down animals that can’t be adopted, kennelling animals of the sick, and shipping droves of animals by air to the Lower Mainland where there is more demand for adopting pets.

The City used to pay for the cost of impounding animals the bylaw officer brought in, but that changed in 2010 when the cost was deducted from their usual grant of $60,000 which then became $28,000. Then in 2011 the council gave them $28,000 again, which Vincent says is a clear message that the City didn’t intend to pay for animal impounding.

Prince Rupert Hospice Society – $10,000

The volunteer group dedicated to making the process of dying easier on the patients and their families is asking for the City to help replace a critical person in their organization.

The Prince Rupert Hospice Society is asking for a grant to help pay for the training of a new Hospice Society coordinator.

Part of the coordinator’s job is to train Hospice Society volunteers how to property attend to the dying patients in the hospice, such as how to feed them or how to keep them company as they deal with fear and grief and even how to be the patient’s spokesman if need be. The organizer  they have at the moment is leaving and now they need a replacement.

The training is expensive and far away. The only qualified person to do the training is in Prince George and they charge $1,000 a day for a 30-hour course. But without a trained coordinator it would be hard to have a Hospice Society at all.

That would be a big loss for palliative care in Prince Rupert.  The society’s volunteers dedicate their time to those who don’t have much of it left and those they’re leaving behind; being everything from a friendly ear and more. Sometimes somebody has no family at all and, if they’re wanted, the society will have a volunteer with the patient around the clock so they don’t have to die alone.

Tourism Prince Rupert – $237,000

Tourism Prince Rupert depends on the City to fund its operations, which are to promote the city as a destination for tourists, so the presentation was more like a progress report than a request for money. But Tourism Prince Rupert is asking for  $65,000 to cover operating expenses, $12,000 to cover their office rent and $160,000 of anticipated hotel tax revenues.

This is the last year of the four-year tourism plan that came out in 2008 and so the plan will have to be revised sometime this year. Bruce Wishart from the organization says that their estimates put tourism in Prince Rupert being worth over $200-million; a big change from the 2007 evaluation of $52-million. And that was after the economic collapse in 2009 caused tourism revenues here to fall to their lowest point since the Queen of the North sank.

Wishart touted Tourism Prince Rupert’s Internet and social media strategies. They’ve overhauled their aging website complete with a business directory and links to their twitter feed and Facebook groups, which they use to interact with potential tourists. They also help train their member businesses in how to use social media to their advantage.

rganizations from other norther communities to create a northern BC tourism app for Apple and Android devices.

On the media front, they brought a photographer from Asian Newspaper Alliance to take photos of Prince Rupert so that member newspapers will have attractive stock photos of Prince Rupert to go along with any news story that might mention us.

While the industry held its own this year, says Wishart, there are some challenges the City is facing.  Things like the strong Canadian dollar, increasingly expensive ferry fares and fallout from the halibut allocation fiasco from last year all have had a negative effect on different sections of Prince Rupert’s tourism industry.

Tourism Prince Rupert’s mission is about external marketing so it doesn’t have much to do with efforts to attract new cruise ships here, that is handled largely by the port authority. Wishart says they know that losing the weekly cruise ship has hit some businesses hard and will do what every they can with the resources they have to help the situation.

Prince Rupert Arts Council  $10,000

The Arts Council is asking the City for $10,000 to help support the council’s many upcoming events.

This year, the Arts Council is continuing its Thursday night movie, they’re also planning Arts & Culture Week with the theme: Postcards from the edge of the world.  They’re bringing back the Creative Jam after the success of the event last year. There are plans to have students paint the boards covering the windows of the abandoned train station, have a fish-themed public art contest where sculptures must be made of recycled materials, and more.

The Arts Council says it’s important that it get a grant from the City because it’s the only Arts Council in town and represents many other groups who use the money. A grant form the City can be used in applying for different arts grants where that money will be matched by another organization.

Prince Rupert Special Events Society – $20,000

The people who have managed to put on four different festivals in Prince Rupert every year on a shoestring-budget came to ask for the shoestring. The Prince Rupert Special Events Society are asking the City for a grant of $20,000 to cover their operations for another year.

The grant form the City is important because the society has a hard time finding other ones. They seem to “fall between the cracks” on the requirements for most other grants and haven’t been able to register as a charity. The grant from the City is a good investment because they’re run by volunteers, says Joy Sundin from Special Events, if the City  put on these events itself it would have to use paid workers and it would cost over $100,000.

Northern British Columbia Museum Association – $244,500

Those in charge of running the Museum of Northern British Columbia are asking the City for $160,000 for the operation of that museum,  $70,000 for the operating expenses  of the Prince Rupert Visitors Centre and $14,500 for the operations of the Kwinitsa Railways Station Museum.

The Museum Association says that they are exploring new ways to try to get more engagement with the rest of the community.  They are planning events and establishing relationships with many different community groups such as AFFNO, the Legion, the Special Events Society and the Port Authority. This cooperation, they say, helps strengthen the social fabric of Prince Rupert.

The association says that the Museum is an anchor of the city’s tourism industry and a focal point of focal pride. Having a respected cultural institution like the museum makes the city more attractive to businesses they claim.  The association also argues that Museum is important as a preserver of the town’s cultural heritage.

Performing Arts Centre Society – $110,000

The Lester Centre of the Arts is now 25-years-old and those who run it says that while money continues to be tight in the economy, they have lots planned for the upcoming year such as the musical, Fiddler on the Roof, featuring a cast with an age range of 12 to 76 . They are still looking for more players, especially male chorus members. The show is expected to need 15,000 volunteer hours to get off the ground.

In  2011, the theatre had 46,000 patrons which is down a bit from last year. The Lester Centre’s space is being used by other groups, including a local church that has decided to rent the theatre on Sunday mornings this year.

The Performing Arts Society is asking for this year’s annual contribution from the City to be $110,000, a contribution that Crystal Lorette from the society says is essential to the survival of the theatre. Lorette says they’ve budgeted 2012 to be an average year despite the fact that they sunk a large  amount of grant money from the Port Authority and credit union into getting a new stage, something that is underway right no. All the flooring and carpeting also being replaced.

The Prince Rupert Library –  $596,072

Members of the Prince Rupert Library board came to council to say something they knew no  municipal government wants to hear: They need a big increase in money from the city.

Back in 2010, budget cuts forced the library to not open on Mondays in order to save money. This, the library board says, has caused circulation to fall 12 per cent each year since then. The closure on Mondays has inconvenienced many library users, from those who use it every day to those who want to book the multipurpose room – the use of which has almost tripled in recent years.

The library building itself is in bad need of repairs. The issues range from the disintegrating plumbing to the ceiling tiles and damaged elevator control panels. The board says  its not trying to complain, but to get council to understand that there are issues that need to be address. Its not just the condition of the building either, staff will find hypodermic needles abandoned in the library bathroom and are sometimes threatened by unstable people.

The library is asking for a 19 per cent increase in the City’s contribution to its budget, making the grant a total of  $596,072. The extra money would go towards increasing the hours the library is open, to make what repairs and maintenance of the building as they can and to address what they see as a wage disparity between the library assistants and the City workers; something they say was supposed to be dealt with years ago.

There’s some good news too. The library is well used by residents and the library board believes that its job will become more important, not less, in the Internet age. The library, they say, allows anyone from any financial background to come in and improve themselves with knowledge which will make the population more employable as the down develops.

– It’s now up top the city council to decide who gets the grant money and how much.