When the topic of how money is spent by council in this community comes up, it is often the big items that take the forefront: $11 million for a Community Cultural Centre, $3.5 million for a new town hall, nearly a million bucks for a bunch of new town employees. Sometimes the discussion, particularly among some business owners in town, centres on how much money seems to be spent outside the community for everything from our centennial post cards to catered food and photographers – items that could have been purchased in our own downtown core. But what often gets missed is the small money, the money dispensed to those community groups and non-community groups who drop into council chambers from time to time with hat in hand looking for support for their event or initiative.
In this our centennial year, $100,000 was earmarked for centennial grants. On two occasions groups made their pitch to council for a piece of the 100K pie. Some were creatively new initiatives. Some were the same groups we see year in year out, only this time their pitch was wrapped in a centennial flag. An early request for trees in South Glens is wrapped in a centennial plaque and funding is granted. One hundred golden eggs are included in the annual Easter egg hunt and funding is granted. In both cases the initiatives were for the enjoyment and/or enhancement of the community. But there are others that seem to have little connection to the community.
Once again this year Morinville granted $3,000 to the Edmonton Bicycle and Touring Club to help support their annual Tour de l’Alberta, a sporting event that starts and ends in Morinville, but which from our viewpoint brings little benefit to the community for the money provided.
Sure a flock of cyclists tear off down 100 Avenue en route to 185 kilometre glory, but one doubts that many of the local businesses are open at 7 a.m. on a Sunday morning to benefit from the potential mass of shoppers speeding by or that any of those cyclists are likely to pop off their mounts to pop into High Street Interiors for a set of lamps or an end table to cart along on their journey.
We are certainly not opposed to bike tours passing through town, but do we need to continually give a monetary hand out year after year for the privilege of having the event pass through town, particularly when the return on tax payer investment is fourth and fifth billing on a website visited only by participants or our newly minted logo emblazoned on the jerseys sold to riders, most of whom will hang them in their Edmonton closets after the ride?
To put this in perspective, the Morinville Food Bank Society, who now have an additional $15,000 in expenses to cover due to their expanded location, were granted $2,500 this year by the Town of Morinville while $3,000 was given to a one-day bike tour that pitched an historical bike route for children but which seems to have forgotten the historical part in their final route plans. The Food Bank was granted $2,500 when a duathlon that drew but one Morinville competitor was granted $1,675 to help cover the costs of bringing runners and bikers to town. The funding of those two sporting events would be sufficient monies to pay the Food Bank’s rent for four months.
In fairness to council, they gave what the Food Bank asked for and the mayor encouraged them to apply for the perpetual grant program so the funding would be given on an annual basis without their need for requesting it each year. But given the charitable organization’s long-standing history of helping those truly in need, we would hope that grant funding could be increased in subsequent years to help them do the good work they do.
Sometimes they help long-time residents and sometimes they help those just passing through. But given some of the grant money handed out this year, there seems to be little problem in giving funds to those just passing through.