Proposed Natatorium community project fund defeated

Lisa Goudy
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Coun. Don Mitchell explains his reasoning for supporting the heritage advisory committee's motion to allocate the remaining funds as of Dec. 31 from the committee's account to the creation of a Natatorium Project Fund at the Dec. 9, 2013 council meeting.

Council voted not to create a Natatorium Project Fund.

At Monday’s regular council meeting, council defeated Coun. Don Mitchell’s motion in favour of the heritage advisory committee recommendation to allocate the rest of the committee’s funds as of Dec. 31 of this year to the creation of the Natatorium Project Fund.

“Really, we haven’t decided on anything about as yet whether or not there will be a Natatorium Project Fund,” said Coun. Candis Kirkpatrick. “It still needs to go to budget and I know that there’s going to, obviously, be some discussion surrounding that.

“So I feel that it could send the wrong message as to what the funds are being designated for when in fact they may not end up being for that purpose at all.”

Ira Dales, chairman of the heritage advisory committee, said ideas have been put forward on what to do with the Natatorium.

“What we were looking to do is put this money toward a project fund, a community project fund managed by, obviously, administration,” said Dales. “It’s certainly a citizen project fund that could allow citizens to start contributing some funding once we get our direction from council on how to move forward with the Natatorium.”

Coun. Don Mitchell said the Natatorium is a recognized heritage property. There has been a lot of public consultation regarding the project as well.

“I’m in favour of supporting it. That doesn’t mean that council loses discretionary control over how those funds are used … (It) would be a part of a public process and come back to council for consideration,” he said. “I think this is a targeted project that deserves consideration. If there isn’t an acceptable project coming forward, then those funds can go to the general reserves.”

But Coun. Heather Eby agreed with Kirkpatrick’s statements.

“I would have the same concerns at this point I think it’s premature to establish a project fund,” she said. “It’s a bit early to say there’s going to be one and so I would just hesitate to support it.”

Director of financial services Brian Acker said if the remaining funds aren’t allocated to something specific at the end of the year, the money will go into the general surplus.

Mayor Deb Higgins said it’s fitting for the committee to make recommendations to council, but starting a reserve fund isn’t appropriate when the fate of the Natatorium has yet to be decided.

“I think each of us knows how important the Natatorium is to this community, that it’s been commented on even in the citizen survey,” she said. “The Natatorium came up in that venue. Also, it’s been referred to our capital (budget) discussions ... I don’t know what the purpose is of setting aside separate funding for that.”

Mitchell countered the purpose of the proposed fund was to show to the community council sees the Natatorium as a priority project.

“It doesn’t make a commitment to any project,” he said. “(It) just indicates that the city is looking at a contribution towards a community project if one would come forward.”

However, the motion was defeated.

Follow Lisa Goudy on Twitter @lisagoudy.

Organizations: Natatorium Project Fund

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