Opinion

FOULDS: Actually, councillor, this is exactly why council is here

It would appear the Kamloops Cadet Society will be able to repair the furnace in its aging Brian Avenue hall, after all — no thanks to a Scrooge-like city council.

What city council refused to do via a pittance of a loan the community has done via a Kamloops Daily News-led fundraising drive to find the $4,000 or so needed by the society to fix its furnace before winter arrives and allow some good kids to keep doing good things.

The society’s need resonated with common folk who had the wisdom to see that donating such a small amount now can and will result in untold savings later in the form of boys and girls being moulded into fine young men and women who will give back in value far exceeding the initial $4,000.

When society director Linda Ingalls approached city council, she was asking for a loan — a loan, to be paid back, not a grant, not a handout, but a loan — to cover half of what was needed to replace the furnace.

The society was seeking the loan from the city so it could qualify for a Community Infrastructure Improvement Fund grant, which requires groups to have half the funding for projects already committed.

The improvement fund is a two-year national program that has set aside $150 million to rehabilitate and improve existing community infrastructure across Canada.

The cadet society was trying to access a paltry $4,000 in the $46 million portion allocated for Western Canada via Western Economic Diversification Canada.

“If we cannot heat this building, then we will not be able to let the cadets use the building,” Ingalls wrote in a letter to council.

“If they cannot use the building, then they will not have a place to use for the next training year.”

The building is used nearly every day by 150 cadets between the ages of nine and 18.

That the majority of city council could not see the value in the request boggles the mind. That it took citizens of Kamloops to reach into their pockets and meet and exceed the cadet society’s need is shameful.

We can debate myriad expenditures at city hall.

Communities in Bloom, sister-city agreements and sending various councillors to various conferences are some that come to mind, all of which can be rightfully debated.

But, helping the cadet society keep great kids doing great things for a loan amount less than that of one city councillor’s travel budget?

Ridiculous.

The rationale for the refusal was weak.

Coun. Nancy Bepple argued approving the loan could result in a precedent as other organizations could then follow, coming to council to ask for loans to repair their facilities.

It might. But, it’s council’s job to determine, on a case-by-case basis, the fate of contingency-fund loan requests.

Coun. Tina Lange argued council does not exist to entertain such requests.

“This isn’t what we’re here for,” she said. “We’re not the bank. It’s a no-interest loan that will be paid back, but there’s other places where they should be looking for that money.”

Actually, this is precisely what council is here for — to help local organizations when they are in need.

Lange’s bewildering interpretation of the role of city council echoed her baffling comments last year, when she opposed a motion to place a covenant on the proposed parkade, to inform future councils that council in 2011 supported a height limit on the structure.

“To me, it would be a waste. I don’t want to presuppose what the community of Kamloops would want 10 years from now,” Lange said at the time.

Again, with all due  respect, that is precisely what elected representatives at city hall do — presuppose what the community of Kamloops might want 10 years from now.

Council is also here to recognize rational requests that benefit the community without unfairly burdening the taxpayer.

With the Kamloops Cadet Society, city council failed miserably.

 

editor@kamloopsthisweek.com

 

 

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