MINTO – Council approved requests for COVID-19 relief funding from the Palmerston Lions Club and Harriston Skating Club at the Nov. 16 meeting.
At the Nov. 2 meeting, council received a request from the Lions for help with their deficit of $14,860 and the Harriston Skating Club for help with a deficit of $1,379 due to lost revenue of about $2,340.
After being advised only about $5,000 would be left in a fund to assist community groups impacted by the pandemic if the two requests were granted, council deferred a decision and directed staff to issue an open call inviting groups to provide a request for funding by Dec. 1.
Assistance to community groups impacted by the pandemic was one of several uses designated by council in July for about $235,000 remaining at the time from funds the town received through the federal/provincial Safe Restart Agreement.
Council allocated $57,000 of that fund to assist community groups.
At the Nov. 18 meeting, deputy mayor Dave Turton presented a motion to reconsider the Nov. 2 motion.
“I think the issue was, we were only going to have $5,000 left in the bank. But I think that it’s a lot easier to give the money out that we have and when the money runs out, it runs out,” said Turton.
The motion to reconsider was approved in a 5-2 vote, with Mayor George Bridge, Turton and councillors Geoff Gunson, Ron Elliott and Mark MacKenzie in favor and councillors Judy Dirksen and Jean Anderson opposed.
A motion to reconsider must be approved by a two-thirds majority in order to allow council to revisit an issue.
Councillor Ron Elliott, a member of the Palmerston Lions Club, then declared a conflict of interest on consideration of the requests, as he had done at the Nov. 2 meeting.
Elliott noted he was declaring the conflict “for perception’s sake.”
“There’s no dollars coming into my household from the Lions Club. In fact, money goes out of my house to the Lions,” he pointed out
“I think we got caught up with the idea that there’s limited funds,” said Bridge.
“However, at the end of the day, if there’s a group out there … that that needs money to survive, then I think we’d be open to talk to them and find out what we can do for them,” he added.
Bridge, who was not present at the Nov. 2 meeting, said he agrees council should go ahead and give out the remaining money, including granting the requests from the Lions and the skating club, but also be prepared to listen to further requests if groups come forward.
“We’ll deal with them on an individual basis and if we have to put more money in the pot, we discuss that as a council,” he suggested.
“Nobody’s going to be left out of this game,” said Bridge.
“If there’s a real need, we’ll make sure that that organization survives, if we can,” he added.
Anderson said her concern at the previous meeting was giving out all the available money to a few groups if other groups were unaware there was money available.
“I don’t know how people found out that the money was out there unless just through reading the Wellington Advertiser. I don’t know that we reached out to any groups,” said Anderson.
“I believe most of the groups knew that there was money available,” said Bridge.
CAO Derrick Thomson added staff “did reach out to our community user groups and let them know.”
“I think Judy and I had the same concern, that we didn’t want to see somebody left out. But I didn’t understand there was flexibility,” said Anderson.
Turton then presented a motion to grant the requests from the Lions and the skating club.
“Let the chips fall where they may. If there’s more people come out wanting money, we debate it,” Turton stated.
The motion passed unopposed.