Vibrancy grant allocations stalled pending clarification of previous decision

LAMBTON SHORES —  A significant portion of council’s meetings again has been consumed by confusing discussion and failed attempts at distributing windfall dollars donated by the major wind farm owner in the municipality.

Community Services director Steve McAuley prepared a report for the Nov. 7 session recommending the awarding of a total of $93,770.83 in 2018 vibrancy grant funding to 11 applicants whose projects ranked highest in his staff’s scoring system. That’s just under council’s approved total $94,122.00, based on 20 per cent of the annual funds received from NextEra Energy, operator of the giant Jericho wind centre … a percentage approved at the July 18 meeting council.

The 11 projects are among 16 applications judged by McAuley’s staff to be eligible for funding according to criteria approved by council. A chart prepared by the community services department suggests that support for all 16 applicants could fit the $94,122.00 ceiling if each requested amount were reduced on a pro-rated basis.

During the meandering discussion, several council members supported grants for all eligible projects. Ward 5 Coun. Rick Goodhand extended that by advocating for two projects that had been judged ineligible … a request by Grand Bend Area Health Services Foundation to buy and install a bench at the medical building on Gill Road and an Optimist Club of Forest bid to purchase hockey jerseys for the Legacy youth hockey program.

Goodhand suggested that although the bench may be on private property, it would serve members of the community attending the medical centre and that the hockey jerseys would suit players for several years rather than just current participants.

“Staff did a lot of work on scoring,” said an obviously frustrated Mayor Bill Weber. He called a vote on the original motion to award  $93,770.83 to the 11 highest point getters. The motion was defeated.

Goodhand followed up with a motion to provide grants for the 16 ‘eligible’ projects plus the bench and uniforms on a pro-rated basis adding up to $64,000. That motion did not get to a vote.

It was superceded by an approved motion to table the Vibrancy award process pending staff clarification of what council decided at the July 18 meeting.

The Ward 5 representative also reminded council that the $94,000 ceiling had already been exceeded at the September meeting with approval of Grand Bend’s Jingle Bells Group request for $9,900.00 to help retrofit hydro pole Christmas decorations in the village with new LED lighting and Forest’s International Silver Stick committee bid for $7,000 for promotion of the 50th anniversary of the hockey tournament in January.

Other council notes:

Smoother ride for community grants

In the absence of similar controversy, the Community Services Department won approval if its recommendation for community grants that are funded annually through the Lambton Shores operating budget. Groups applying under this stream may apply for up to $2,000.00 cash and/or up to $2,500.00 in-kind (fee waivers, rentals, staff support) toward their event or project.

Council passed a motion that all eligible financial requests and in-kind requests identified in an evaluation chart be approved pending the adoption of the 2018 operating budget and that $46,000 be included in it to fund the projects.

“Applications for the 2018 community grant stream closed on Sept. 15 with 37 applications totalling $44,795.00 in cash requests and $26,321.09 of in-kind requests was received,” director McAuley reported.

Among the recommended cash allocations to groups in the Times-Advocate coverage area are Grand Bend Art Centre $1,425.00, Grand Bend & Area Horticultural Society $2,000.00, Grand Bend Canada Day committee $3,000, Huron Country Playhouse Guild $2,000.00, West Coast Lions of Grand $2,000.00.

Recommendations for in-kind allocations include Grand Bend & Area Studio Tour $492.65, West Coast Lions of Grand Bend $1,389.25.