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Job losses projected following freeze of Community Enhancement Grants

Job losses are coming after the City of Prince Rupert voted to freeze Community Enhancement Grants at the 2013 levels for the year ahead.

A number of community groups were looking for an increase in funding in 2014, including the Lester Centre of the Arts, the Prince Rupert Library and the Museum of Northern BC, but will now have to move forward with less money than hoped for.

The Museum of Northern BC requested more than $40,000 in additional funding this year to avoid staff and programming cuts, however council agreed not to increase the museum's community enhancement grant this year.

"Given the fact that the cost of everything is going up and the grant isn't ... we are going to cut staff. We'll have to see what impact that has on services," said Susan Marsden, curator of the Museum of Northern BC, adding the impacts on services won't be known until mid-to-late January.

"It just means each staff member has to take on more responsibilities and at a certain point that becomes counter-productive. There's only so much an individual can do."

Marsden said she knows the city isn't in the best place financially, but hopes at some point there will be good news for community groups.

"I do respect the fact that the city is struggling, but I do think we're surrounded by wealth and it's a bit odd that it doesn't seem to be trickling down into the actual municipality," she said, adding she would like to see the city come out with a long-term plan on how to generate more revenue.

The Lester Centre of the Arts requested an additional $4,000 to offset premiums for liability insurance covering the Performing Arts Centre Society board of directors and 128 volunteers.

Even though the request was denied, Lester Centre general manager Crystal Lorette said there have been some changes since the board approached the city.

"We're back on track. If they freeze us ... we'll be fine this year," she said.

"There has been a change with the [Municipal Insurance Association]. They will be covering for an additional year because there's been several organizations in our same situation. They need to re-look at it," Lorette said, adding the topic will be discussed at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities in the coming year.

The Lester Centre may be in the clear for the insurance premiums, but Lorette said the facility is still in need of money.

"When you're looking at what the city gives us, it just covers the day-to-day operations of the facility. That doesn't mean wages of the two paid employees that work here," she said.

The Lester Centre had to pay about $50,000 for utility costs last year, with BC Hydro costs expected to increase in 2014. Additionally, the facility is constantly needing to replace old equipment which is generally very expensive.

The Prince Rupert Library is waiting to see if it will receive an additional $36,000 in funding this year to help cover operational costs. The city postponed its decision on the increase until January.

Chief librarian Joe Zelwietro said he's pleased the city is at least contemplating the idea.

"I think the city is giving some serious consideration to our application and are planning to be financially responsible but [are still looking] at what possibilities may exist because of special circumstances at the library," he said.

"We try hard to serve the community and the city is respecting that. I know it's hard for the city too," Zelwietro added.

The Prince Rupert Golf Course, which last week outlined financial difficulties facing the club in 2014, will receive the same $103,000 as last year.

The City of Prince Rupert has currently approved giving out $1,051,075 in community enhancement grants. The city will decide on funding the Visitor's Information Centre and the Prince Rupert Library in early 2014.

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