Lots of talk, no action.
Vernon council debated the Vernon Winter Carnival Society’s request to reduce fee rentals for five events for the upcoming 63rd festival for more than half an hour at it’s regular meeting Monday, Jan. 9.
In the end, council received the Carnival’s request as information.
Council learned from recreation services manager Doug Ross that the Carnival’s original $27,000 bill for renting Kal Tire Place for a concert Feb. 10 had been reduced by more than $4,600 with the removal of a specific piece of equipment from the rental deal.
That fee can be reduced further depending on the number of tickets sold for the event which, as of Monday, stood at 1,513.
“It would be great if the concert sold out,” said Ross.
Chief administrative officer Patti Bridal and public works manager James Rice said the Carnival receives a yearly $10,000 grant from the city to offset costs, and that in-kind donations from the city are included for an event such as the Carnival parade, as well as $6,100 set aside for the parade in the city operating budget.
Carnival also gets to use its city-owned office building on 35th Avenue rent-free, but Carnival must maintain the grounds and upkeep.
“So Carnival gets quite a bit of support from the city,” said Bridal.
Carnival asked for reduction in rental fees for six events, including the concert. Council turned down the concert request in December.
“It seems to me staff is working closely with Carnival to minimize their costs,” said Coun. Brian Guy. “I don’t understand why they are asking for a random collection of costs separately with no rationale provided. They want waivers which, to me, says are part of our standard agreements, and they’re trying to wiggle out of them.”
Coun. Kari Gares said the rationale is to “put on the best Vernon Winter Carnival they can in the most cost-effective way.”
Coun. Teresa Durning wanted to waive the fees for Kickball at Grahame Park, and the Family Fun Park at the Kal Tire Place parking lot. The society has told the city they no longer require all of the parking lot for the event.
“I’m frustrated,” said Durning. “It’s really important to understand the economic impact Carnival has at a shoulder (non-busy) time of year.”
Coun. Akbal Mund said Winter Carnival has received major grants the past two years to help get through COVID. He said the society is simply asking for money, something the city needs to be wary of.
“Many non-profit groups use city facilities,” said Mund. “If we give it to one, we’ll have every single one of them up here asking.”
Coun. Kelly Fehr said the city “significantly subsidizes” Vernon Winter Carnival, and it would be “irresponsible to subsidize them further without a Carnival budget review.”
Coun. Brian Quiring was absent from the meeting.
Chief financial officer Debra Law said instead of waiving or reducing rental fees, council could wait to hand over the yearly $10,000 grant from the city, and Ross suggested waiting to see if costs could be reduced further if events go as planned.
For example, he said, Jam Can Curling is booked for five days at the Centennial Outdoor Rink but may only be used for three days.
City facility rental fees cover all costs associated with the facility, including staffing and clean-up.
The Vernon Winter Carnival Society is hoping city council gets into the Carnival spirit by reducing fee rentals for certain events.
Council will mull over a letter written by Carnival executive director Vicki Proulx at its regular meeting Monday (Jan. 9) requesting council grant the fees reductions for the 63rd annual event Feb. 3-12.
“We are hopeful that Your Worship and Council will still consider supporting our non-profit in other ways,” wrote Proulx, expressing disappointment in council’s earlier decision not to reduce rates of renting Kal Tire Place for a Winter Carnival concert featuring Canadian country group The Recklaws.
“Vernon Winter Carnival is currently paying the City of Vernon over $57,000 in rental fees. This does not include our fire permits, traffic control, or additional costs for catering and other necessary permits. In addition to those fees the society is also paying $27,000 to the city for the rental of Kal Tire Place for our concert event happening Feb. 10.”
Specifically, Carnival has asked for reductions or waiving of fees for five events:
• Kickball at Grahame Park – Feb. 11 and 12, $1,426.51; waiving of fees requested;
• Family Fun Park (Winter Playground) at Kal Tire Place Parking lot *event by donation* – set up Feb. 7-9, event Feb. 10-12, $2,879.13; waiving or reduction of fees requested;
• Jam Can Curling at the Centennial Outdoor Rink *free event* – Feb. 6-10 – $764.93; waiving or reduction of fees requested;
• Balloon Glow at Polson Park, *free event* – Feb. 3, $282.18; waiving of fees requested;
• Snogolf at BX Community Park, Feb. 5, $348.70; waiving of fees requested.
Proulx said since Carnival’s inception in 1961, the City of Vernon has been an integral part of the success of the festival and the society.
“We hope that you can acknowledge the impact Vernon Winter Carnival has on our community, not only for our residents, but for the boost we also give to our tourism industry in what would otherwise be a slow time for our local businesses,” said Proulx.
“We will continue to bring our community together through fun events and activities that keep us connected through shared experiences.”