The Vernon Elks 45 will receive support to the tune of $5,000 from the city so they may be considered for a once-in-100-years grant opportunity from the federal government.
But council’s move to donate the funds raised questions about why the matter wasn’t brought before council sooner.
In March 2020, the service club first asked the City of Vernon for a small financial or in-kind donation showing support in their application for the Legacy Fund Centennial Project from Heritage Canada in order to update the facility.
The Elks were provided with a letter of support from the mayor in October but was told by Heritage Canada that was not enough.
The matter first came before council March 8, and councillors Scott Anderson, Dalvir Nahal and Kari Gares expressed concern and said they were “blindsided” by the issue.
Historically, council doesn’t provide not-for-profit organizations with funding for their building, but encourage they apply through discretionary grants.
“We don’t invest in buildings we don’t own,” Mayor Victor Cumming said when questioned by Anderson.
Anderson pointed to correspondence dating back to June and questioned the authority of the Chief Administrative Officer.
“This sounds like there are two people involved in a decision that should have come to council months and months ago,” Anderson said.
In the meeting prior (March 8), city staff pointed to council’s historic position to consolidate the block the clubhouse sits on for future development adjacent to the future Greater Vernon Cultural Centre and noted funding upgrades would be a conflict of interest.
Coun. Brian Quiring said that didn’t sit well with him.
“It looks a little bit like we’re forcing them out,” Quiring said. “They need us to get this grant and we’re not going to give them what they need because we want their property.”
Quiring moved to donate $500 if the club was successful in its application.
Now, that donation has jumped tenfold to ensure the contribution would be seen as “meaningful,” as per requested by the grant provider.
Although arbitrary — as the minimum was never clearly defined, the mayor said — $5,000 would likely check the boxes required.
“I’m cynical about the $5,000,” Anderson said, noting the Elks were told no for nearly a year. “Then it hits the press and we offer $5,000?”
Quiring, too, worried the jump could set a dangerous precedent.
“They just want to show that we support them,” Quiring said. “They clarified that it can be a small amount or a gift in kind.”
All of council agreed the Elks had special circumstances due to the uniqueness of the application and its historical roots.
Council voted unanimously to donate $5,000 contingent on the success of the Elks’ Heritage Canada grant.
If awarded, the grant, valued around $100,000, would go towards replacing two 30-year-old furnaces, making bathrooms more accessible, adding an elevator and giving the clubhouse a facelift with new paint and flooring.