Time limit for O’Keefe Ranch funding

O’Keefe Ranch is being warned that taxpayer funding is on a short leash.

O’Keefe Ranch is being warned that taxpayer funding is on a short leash.

As part of the core services review, a majority of council voted Thursday to continue with a $150,000 annual grant for the  city-owned historic site. But in 2016, that will drop to $100,000, followed by $50,000 in 2017 and $10,000 in 2018.

“This thing needs a critical path,” said Coun. Brian Quiring.

There is a hope that by establishing a timeline, other options for revenue generation will materialize.

“It  may be an impetus for other partners to support the ranch when they realize this (city funding levels) isn’t a forever thing,” said Coun. Juliette Cunningham referring to agencies like the regional district.

City administration had recommended curtailing the grant schedule in 2014, with $10,000 being the end-point in 2016.

Staff says $10,000 was selected because it’s outlined in a contract between the city and the O’Keefe Ranch Society. However, Coun. Catherine Lord, a former ranch manager, disagrees with that interpretation.

“The $10,000 contract is for capital only and not operations,” she said.

Opposition to reducing the grant starting in 2016 came from Mayor Rob Sawatzky and Councillors Bob Spiers and Patrick Nicol.

Sawatzky believes reductions in the taxpayer subsidy should have begun in 2014.

“This has been going on for more than 18 years,” he said of financial challenges at the ranch.

“It has to be rationalized in some other ways.”