- BC Games
City taking a closer look at festivals
Nine Royal City organizations that stage annual festivals lined up to give their thoughts on how the city doles out services and money to them at a special council meeting Tuesday.
Traditionally, council reviews funding requests annually and bases its decisions on recommendations from city advisory committees. But late last year, council decided to review these procedures.
“We need to be more diligent in terms of how we’re giving out our money,” said Coun. Bill Harper on Wednesday.
Many of the organizations called for developing ways to pool resources for equipment, stage and tent rentals, and insurance.
They also said it was a challenge having to deal with several city departments when planning the events.
The Downtown Business Improvement Area (BIA), which stages the Royal City Show & Shine and the StrEAT food truck festival, suggested having a dedicated staff person be a one-stop shop for organizations would be beneficial.
“Having to liaise with so many different City departments on individual aspects of each event, instead of a centralized go-to person who can help coordinate and streamline the process” is challenging, wrote the BIA in its presentation. Dealing with so many departments can mean their information isn’t always accurately presented to council, said the BIA.
Harper said New West should consider Coquitlam’s model that employs a coordinator to facilitate festivals by providing services such as producing a schedule, and the sharing of tents and tables.
However, Coun. Chuck Puchmayr isn’t sold on the idea.
“I was really surprised at the diversity of concerns and needs from the different groups. Some groups have figured out the map of how to make it happen and others are finding obstacles along the route,” Puchmayr said, adding this is a great opportunity to put together a template for festival organizers and city staff.
“Every time staff has brought forward a recommendation for a full-time coordinator for festivals I’ve been in opposition to it,” Puchmayr added. “I don’t even believe we need a full-time staff person or even a six-month staff person. I think a very clear template of checks and balances that the community can use is (enough).”
The BIA also suggested having the option of providing multi-year grants so events can be assured of running from year-to-year, especially since sponsorship deals are often long term.
Harper said the city should look at having three-year contracts with the organizations explicitly saying how much money will be given, and what outcome the funding is expected to produce instead of just giving the money out.
“It gives predictability to the festivals,” said Harper.
Puchmayr was surprised at the range of costs involved with some festivals being put on with a shoestring budget while others get huge sponsorship and are staged with virtually no city money.
Staff will prepare a report identifying the common issues and themes of the presentations and produce recommendations for council to consider at its Oct. 21 meeting.
Summary of city grant funding to New Westminster community festivals including in-kind services:
Hyack Festival Association $180,000 $170,175
Downtown BIA $31,000 $26,739
FRDC $5,250 $2,380
Sapperton BA $15,366 $10,562
West End BA $10,700 $6,981
Pride Society $3,000 $5,000
Arts Council $4,700 $4,000
Quayside $0 $0
Summerfest $0 $0
Source: City of New Westminster