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City slashes Hyack funding

Hyack president Peter Goodwin -
Hyack president Peter Goodwin
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City council's decision to slash funding to the Hyack Festival Association will damage the organization's ability to operate this year, says its president.

Council decided Monday to limit funding to two events.

It will provide $15,000 and in-kind services for the Hyack's annual parade in May, and $10,000 for Canada Day fireworks.

Hyack was seeking a cash grant of $185,000 plus $30,000 of in-kind services.

"I don't think there's any doubt about it," said Hyack president Peter Goodwin when asked if the decision would weaken its operational capacity in 2014.

He said it will be possible to run the two events. But the biggest challenge is to find funding to pay an executive director, Goodwin added.

Council approved the compromise solution suggested by Coun. Jonathan Coté despite fervent opposition from Couns. Bill Harper and Chuck Puchmayr and Mayor Wayne Wright.

The firing of executive director Douglas Smith on July 31 initiated a series of soap-opera like events. The board of directors later reinstated Smith. Soon after, Smith left and soon won a financial settlement for wrongful dismissal.

The issue divided the board of directors and executive with several resigning. Both sides threw accusations back and forth and continue to do so.

In October, council requested a financial audit of Hyack and suspended its funding. It also took over organizing the Christmas Parade of Lights in December.

Harper called it complete chaos and labeled Hyack dysfunctional.

"This is an example of an organization that has crumbled and lost the confidence of the community," said Harper.

Coun. Betty McIntosh defended the organization. She said most of what Harper said was wrong, and the executive—with several past presidents on it—is a stable force.

She praised Coté's proposal.

"It's a moving forward type of motion. It's a move supporting a group that has 42 years of supporting this community," said McIntosh.

Coté said Hyack still has a role in the community, but doesn't represent New Westminster's diversity.

"Sitting on the sidelines it was painful to watch what was happening to the organization," said Coté.

Coun. Jaimie McEvoy said council is giving Hyack way more attention than it merits. McEvoy has worked in the non-profit sector for 30 years. In his view these kind of disputes are normal in non-profits and government should not be interfering.

"This council shouldn't be having such passionate, I would even say angry, views of what happened," said McEvoy.

"I don't think any government has any business in what an independent non-profit organization does, who they have on their board, or who their staff is."

Wright usually waits until the rest of council has its say, but Monday he jumped in midway through the debate to give his views.

"I'm very concerned about this. It's one of those things that this council has got something that is so divisive. It's divisive beyond our control," said Wright.

Wright suggested instead of city providing funds this year, Hyack should use its endowment fund of more than $100,000 to prove it can operate in 2014.

"The money is the least of the worries because it's already there," said Wright.

Such a move would give Hyack a year to consolidate and make amends with those that have been great contributors in the past, he said.

Goodwin acknowledged the endowment fund is available, but it's used to produce needed revenue.

"To cut into that fund it would not last very long," said Goodwin.

The Hyack board was to meet Wednesday evening to discuss the ramifications of council's decision.

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