An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
A MILLION DOLLARS is not chump change, especially to taxpayers.
City council has been scratching its head over how Kamloops lost out on a million dollars in funding from a federal-provincial COVID relief fund called Strengthening Communities’ Services.
The grant program, aimed at supporting the homeless, was launched last spring with eligibility based on population. That made Kamloops eligible for $2.5 million. Other cities were awarded the maximum available; Kamloops wasn’t.
The rationale for why Kamloops received $1.4 million instead of the full amount is that the application put together by City Hall staff included a couple of Portland Loo-style washrooms for use by street people.
Criteria for the grants required that any infrastructure — including washrooms — be temporary and not incur ongoing operational costs. For example, Cowichan Valley was awarded $2.5 million for sleeping cabins for the homeless, because they were presented as being temporary.
Presumably, the Kamloops loos were disqualified because they have to be connected to sewer and water services and, therefore, are permanent.
The first thing that comes to mind is that insisting that improvements for street people be temporary is slightly ridiculous. If a city wants to install permanent rest rooms for street people and then pay for ongoing maintenance and operation itself, what’s wrong with that?
The second thing is that criteria for the funding clearly stated it must be used for temporary programs such as training and so on. City staff spoke with the Union of B.C. Municipalities, which administered the funding, “a number of times” to clarify details.
Clearly, something went wrong and the result has been very costly for Kamloops taxpayers.
When a city loses a million dollars in senior-government grant money, it means one of two things: either local taxpayers have to foot the bill, or whatever the money was intended for simply doesn’t happen.
That, sadly, is what Kamloops is left with after the unfortunate loss of this funding.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.