Council feeling burned

City council is feeling burned by the Downtown Penticton Association’s decision to walk away from throwing celebrations for Canada Day, BC Day and the Santa Claus parade.

City staff disclosed Tuesday that in the days following the DPA’s March 5 request to council for more financial help hosting civic events, the DPA completely pulled the plug on the celebrations.

As a result, to avoid cancellation of the events, the city was forced to pick up the bill and job of organizing them with four months before Canada Day.

Coun. Julius Bloomfield, a former director and president of the DPA, voiced unhappiness with the short notice given the longstanding relationship between the two parties and the new council’s support for the group.

“They were concerned about security in the downtown, we requested extra patrols by the RCMP which we got charged double time for,” he said, adding the city is also hiring new bylaw officers to patrol the neighbourhood.

Bloomfield noted council voted to allow cannabis stores on Main and Front Streets, at the urging of the DPA. Council also “supported the business community” by spreading out an increase to the business-tax multiplier over three years instead of one, against staff recommendation, during 2019 budget deliberations.

“I feel we’ve done a lot for the DPA since we’ve been elected,” he said. “And then the DPA decides to pull out of these events with four months notice and some of these events take a year to plan.”

Coun. Jake Kimberley piled on, pointing to money spent to revitalize and beautify Main Street in recent years and funds in this year’s budget to open a joint bylaw/RCMP office at the corner of Main and Nanaimo.

“We are doing everything we can to assist them, and yet, short notice we’ve been asked to find more money to accommodate this,” Kimberley said. “And not only find more money, but we’ve got to find people to run those events.”

Council voted unanimously to reject a $1,190 grant request from the DPA for its “Live at Lunch” series, with the understanding that the DPA has extra cash on hand now that it is not hosting Canada Day, BC Day and the Santa Claus parade.

Last year the city contributed a little over $20,000 in cash and in-kind support to the events, which made a small dent in the total $141,000 the DPA spent.

It’s still not clear how much exactly Penticton taxpayers will be on the hook to throw the three events this year, although council was adamant cancelling them is not on the table.

“These events, especially Canada Day celebrations, I mean goodness me, the birthday of Canada, we can’t avoid that,” Kimberley said. “I don’t think this community wants to see these events lost.”

City staff told council it’s likely the organization and operation of the celebrations will need to be outsourced to a contractor rather than unionized city staff. Total costs for the city are still being estimated, but budgets for each event will be presented to council in the future on an event-by-event basis.

Council voted unanimously, with Mayor John Vassilaki and Coun. Katie Robinson absent, to allocate $32,800 previously earmarked for grants to the DPA to support the celebrations be redirected to the city’s sports and event program.

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