Council approves plan to put $184,000 for NDCC in reserves, Newell says funding is being used as a 'weapon'
Nelson city council has decided to play ball with the RDCK and keep the $184,000 grant for the Nelson and District Community Centre (NDCC) on the table, but with conditions that don’t sit well with RDCK Area F Director Tom Newell.
After the city decided to withdraw the $184,000 earlier this year due to concerns about the funding model for the NDCC, Director Newell approached council about the possibility of opening up some discussions between the two parties and keeping that funding on the table until the discussions are done.
At a special council meeting convened on Monday, March 16, council passed a motion stating that the city would request that the RDCK hold the $184,000 in reserve to be paid to the City of Nelson in the event that a full review and a new funding model isn’t realized by Sept. 30, 2016.
“We will consider the request, and said that we will ask the $184,000 be retained in the Nelson and District Community Complex reserve fund, so that we would not incur further taxation on all our taxpayers,” said Mayor Deb Kozak. “Should discussions not proceed in a way that will insure we are equally paying or have fair access and payment to the facility, that that money would come back to the City if Nelson.”
Kozak said the move ultimately means the city is taking a softer stance on the issue in hopes of realizing a discussion about the issue of funding for the NDCC.
With this motion approved by the city, Kozak said the next step is to take it to the Nelson and District Recreation Commission for approval, and then to the RDCK, which is currently working through its own budget process.
The RDCK must approve the plan before any discussions will proceed.
Director Newell, who attended Monday’s meeting, is not happy with what he heard from council on the matter.
“I remain very concerned that our negotiations, that city council seems to think we’re going to enter into, are beginning with a hammer hanging over my head,” Newell said.
“I’ll go into the conversation, but I won’t allow this weapon to be hung over my head as a condition to negotiating in good faith – because I wasn’t negotiated with before this decision was made by council.”
Newell added that the $184,000 in funding is actually written into an RDCK bylaw passed in 2003 that requires the City of Nelson to provide that amount in funding to the recreation commission via a revenue sharing agreement from a boundary expansion and profits from Nelson Hydro and other dams in the area.
“This is a unilateral breach of this bylaw, which funds part of the recreation commission,” Newell said. “That’s very problematic for me.”
Newell added that council’s decision to negotiate only “begins to ease the tension,” that was created by council’s “unilateral decision” to withhold the funds.
When asked if he would support council’s plan, Newell said he’s not sure just yet.
“I really have to sit down and think about it to see what the best strategy moving forward is,” he said.