Nelson council balks at price of sports mural

Nelson Sports Council is seeking funding for a sports-theme mural on the walls of the Civic Arena.  - File photo
Nelson Sports Council is seeking funding for a sports-theme mural on the walls of the Civic Arena.
— image credit: File photo

Nelson Regional Sports Council may need to scale down plans for a sports-themed mural at the Civic Arena if it wants city funding for the project.

At a meeting Monday, council voted 4-3 against the group receiving $20,000 of unallocated budget surplus for Phase 1 of the $100,000 mural. Mayor John Dooley proposed putting city money towards the project after council opted to only give mural proponents $10,000 of the $30,000 they’d requested through Columbia Basin Trust’s community initiative funding program.

But the councillors who voted against putting more towards the project — Candace Batycki, Paula Kiss, Deb Kozak and Donna Macdonald — said it was too much to spend on public art they hadn’t budgeted for and wanted to see if there was another option.

Councillor Kozak noted there were very few projects given the full amount they requested from community initiative funding. She thought it was unfair to top up just one of the under-funded projects — especially given that the sports mural wasn’t considered a priority by an independent jury appointed by the city’s Cultural Development Commission to allocate funding for the arts sector.

“I’m not saying this isn’t a good project, but it doesn’t need to happen right now,” Kozak said, suggesting the group re-apply for initiative funding next year when the project is further developed.

In its report to council, the CDC’s jury said it chose to deny funding to the sports mural because the amount requested would have taken up most of the $44,000 it had to allocated to arts projects (the jury decides on how to spend 35 per cent of the initiative funding). But council has final say on how the funds are allocated and decided to take money away from several other projects to come up with the $10,000 towards the mural.

Among the projects that had their funding redirected to the mural were: Kootenay Animal Assistance Program’s spay/neuter program for pets of low income families, Nelson Waldorf School’s playground upgrade, and Our Daily Bread’s plan to purchase local meat for its food bank. There was also a request from the West Kootenay Eco Society for a mural at Cottonwood Park that went unfunded, despite it only costing  $4,000 and promising to involve local youth in the creative process.

Mayor Dooley said all that effort to direct community initiative funds to the project will have been done in vain if the project doesn’t have the money to go ahead.

“When we awarded that $10,000 it was with the assumption that staff would tell us where the balance of the money could be found,” Dooley claimed, though other councillors said only he held that assumption.

After council voted to deny further funding, a related motion recommended by councillor Macdonald passed unanimously, which asked that the Cultural Development Commission meet with the sports council to discuss options for reducing the overall project cost.

Sports council executive director Kim Palfenier told the Star it wouldn’t be easy to bring the total cost down but other funding sources could help reduce the proportion the city is asked to cover.

“The $10,000 [from community initiative funding] is a good chunk to start with and perhaps we can leverage that with other grants,” Palfenier said.

However, she said the project might end up being delayed until 2015 to allow more time to secure funding. But she had no doubt the project would go ahead, eventually.

“This isn’t something that’s going to leave us dead in the water,” she said. “It’s just a bit of a hiccup.”

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