Disagreement arises over grant policy

ARICHAT: The former and current warden debated an extension for infrastructure projects already approved under the municipality’s grant policy.

During the regular monthly meeting of Richmond Municipal Council on April 23 in Arichat, interim Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Don Marchand told council that during a recent budget meeting, it was the consensus of council to process three remaining grants even though the money could not be spent prior to the end of the fiscal year. Council then decided to grant a six-month extension to all remaining grants that were not paid out, as of March 31,“in order to ensure that groups had enough time to continue to process their projects in spring/summer and have the funds paid out prior to the end of the six month extension,” Marchand told council.

District 1 councillor James Goyetche sought confirmation on the exact number of grants that would be affected by this extension. He said he knew of three, but was unaware of any others.

“It was three we discussed but there was probably more, there were at least two others for sure,” Warden Brian Marchand responded.

In addition to the grants he is aware of, District 5 councillor Jason MacLean wanted to know what other grants will be included in this extension.

“I certainly don’t have an issue with the one that was already discussed for Lennox Passage, that came to council and we spoke to that,” MacLean told council. “There were three that were just brought to us recently and council made a decision on those three, I have no issue with that. But there seems to be sort of a question mark as to what other grants we’re talking about, so if there were grants that were under the parameters that should have been followed [in] our grant policy, I’m not sure why we’re making changes.”

“We’re making the changes because we know it’s worded a bit different from the previous grant structure that we had,” Marchand responded. “Because before once they got it [funding], I believe they had a year to get the work completed.”

“So that should only be those three, plus the one for Lennox Passage?” MacLean questioned.

“No Lennox Passage was done totally different because that was a couple of years ago, so they had two years to complete that infrastructure work and we extended that another year,” Marchand explained.

“So the wording of the motion is any grants that were submitted for the last fiscal year are given a six-month extension?” MacLean asked.

“Correct. If there’s any that were done the year before that had two years for infrastructure, and I don’t know if there are any, they would still fall under the old grants,” Marchand stated. “But this past fiscal April 1,  2018-March 31, 2019, any of those grants that weren’t completed, we’re giving an extension to all of them.”

“I will not be supporting that motion,” MacLean shot back. “This council wouldn’t let five requests for $500 apiece come to a committee meeting; this council would allow that to happen. And now we’re giving an extension of six months to any and all grants that were requested? That makes absolutely no sense to me.”

The motion passed, with MacLean as the lone nay vote.

During the regular monthly meeting on February 25, council gave notice that it was amending the municipal grant policy.

During the meeting, Marchand’s request to make the proposed changes public was denied by MacLean because some of the changes require a recommendation from municipal staff.

Following the February meeting, Marchand said council and staff looked at the whole grant policy, particularly recurring issues and noted there will be changes to the whole grant structure to provide “financial constraints.”