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Township council wrestles with grants criteria

A policy which bars council from funding major festivals based on duration has been reviewed.

Township council’s community grants program stipulates that in order to qualify for funding, major festivals must last for two or more days.

That effectively eliminates the annual Cranberry Festival, which is held on one day every October.

Like Canada Day, Aldergrove Festival Days and the International Festival, the Cranberry Festival draws thousands of people to the community. But unlike the three other major festivals, the Cranberry Festival is a one-day affair, excluding it from a potential $10,000 grant.

At its April 23 meeting, council approved a $2,500 grant for the Cranberry Festival, but after hearing a presentation from parks and recreation director David Leavers on May 7, doubled it.

Staff had recommended a $10,000 grant, but Councillor Kim Richter questioned the fairness of giving taxpayers’ money to an event which financially benefits vendors.

The festival “is just shop til you drop,” Richter said.

“I’m not saying that it’s bad for people to shop, but it’s not about meeting your neighbours . . .  for me there would have to be significant give-back to the community,” something, she added, for the community to enjoy at no cost.

One of the problems with grants is that there are several organizations “waiting in the wings asking for money,” said Councillor Charlie Fox.

Either the criteria should be changed or the Cranberry Festival should adjust its structure to meet the Township’s, Fox said.

Richter said that criteria must include value to the community. She argued that $5,000 in grant money is not justified.

According to the Fort BIA, which owns the Cranberry Festival trademark, that is just what the festival does. Its business profile states that the festival “will pay for itself and any monies raised outside of expenses are to be used to further promote business in Fort Langley via marketing and beauification programs as well as additional events.”

However, Richter saw it this way: “It’s not a festival, it’s an opportunity for merchants to make money and excess is going to promote business in Fort Langley.”

Councillor Grant Ward defended the grant and the BIA.

“It’s called community building.” he said, adding that the grant recognizes the BIA “for a job well done.”

Richter countered, “If there is money left over they should be paying us back.”

The grant is a no-brainer, Councillor Steve Ferguson said.

“It brings people to Fort Langley. We want people to be excited about coming to Fort Langley.”

Under current policy, Christmas in Williams Park, and Fort Brigade Days are denied funding even though both are considered “significant events on Langley’s special events calendar,” according to a report from the Recreation, Culture and Parks division.

Among the requests which were denied were $2,500 each for the Living Flag Project, Farm Animal Rescue Mission Society, and Douglas Park Community School. The Flag Project grant was set to come back before council on Monday night.

Council agreed to a host of grants, including two scholarships of $1,000 each to all local high schools, $250 to each high school dry grad event, $7,500 to Langley Youth for the Fallen, $2,500 for the Langley Pos-Abilities Society, and $500 to the Greater Langley Cycling Coalition Society.

Further amendments to the community grants criteria will be discussed at a council priorities meeting.

 

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