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Chamber abandons Lake Country visitor centre

Bobbi-Sue Menard

Lake Country Calendar

The Lake Country Chamber of Commerce has decided to not enter into a fee-for-service agreement with the District of Lake Country for the Visitor’s Centre.

This means that, as of December 31, 2012, the district will be responsible for the Visitor’s Centre and will work with Tourism BC and other funding sources to keep the Visitor’s Centre open.

The Chamber of Commerce has been either operating or contributing to the operation of the Visitor’s Centre since 2002, as the facility is considered a solid link for local businesses to tourists and visitors to the area.

The past few years have seen the district increase its financial contribution to the operating budget of the centre, but with senior levels of government putting funding at risk, the Chamber of Commerce believes the district needs to contribute more.

The District of Lake Country contributed $45,000 to the centre last year.

“We requested a $5,000 bump should the Service Canada (a federal agency) grant be declined,” said Marvin Farkas, president of the Lake Country Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber also requested some volunteer training funds, as the sole individual able to perform training at the centre is getting on in years.

“All volunteers at the centre must be certified as trained to meet Tourism BC’s requirements,” Farkas said.

Tourism BC also has minimum service hour requirements – seven days a week from the May long weekend to the September long weekend.

The Service Canada grant went to cover paid summer student staffing.  Should that grant be denied in the future, the centre would be short hours required for Tourism BC funding which averages about $7,000 per year.

The possibility of losing the federal grant and having it cascade through to the Tourism BC funding was simply too much risk for the local chamber to take on, said Farkas, especially after an in-camera session with district council discussing the issue. “We feel there wasn’t an offer of a full partnership on the table,” Farkas said.

Alberto De Feo, the district’s chief administrative officer, said the issue has far more to do with the financial constraints faced by the district than anything else.

“The centre is absolutely worthwhile,” De Feo said. “It is unfortunate we have this much money to offer, but the district would like to help out and do what it can.  We did increase the budget for this year by $10,000.”

The situation is unfortunate, De Feo said, since the chamber has a seat at the district table on many committees and the district views the chamber as a full partner in many endeavors.

“We have to be accountable to taxpayers at large in our decisions,” De Feo said. “Obviously if the Chamber of Commerce feels there is not enough funding that is their choice but we are still open for negotiation.”

 

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