City of Merritt waives local non-profit’s rent
Merritt city council decided to waive Nicola Family Therapy’s remaining 2012 rent payments after the non-profit agency lost a $35,000 grant.
Besides waiving the rent, council agreed to freeze the group’s office rental fees at the 2012 rates for 2013, and donate the use of the Merritt Civic Centre on Dec. 1 for a fundraising event Nicola Family Therapy is scheduled to host.
These concessions represent nearly $7,900 in lost revenue for the City of Merritt.
Representatives from the agency, which has operated in Merritt for the past 19 years, made the financial requests at a council meeting on June 26. In May the agency received notice that School District 58 would not be extending a contract in place since 1996, and directors and staff were worried what the reduced access to free counselling services would mean to the community.
In an effort to cut costs, Nicola Family Therapy has closed the office on Fridays since June 29. Staff and volunteers also launched a fundraising campaign to recover the lost revenue.
On July 24, council agreed to all three requests, though Leisure Services Manager Larry Plotnikoff suggested in his report that they be denied.
“While [granting the requests] would likely assist the organization with some of their funding concerns, it is uncertain if this action would result in their being able to offer their services on a sustainable basis,” his report read. “In addition, this action would likely result in other organizations in similar financial situations making similar requests of the City.”
Representatives from Nicola Family Therapy said SD 58 ended the contract with the intention of bringing the services in-house by adding another councillor.
With this in mind, Coun. Alastair Murdoch questioned to what extent the City needed to support the organization financially.
“We’re not talking about saving a service, we’re talking about an organization,” he said. “I don’t deny that these people provide a fabulous service to the community, but we’ve tried to establish a policy of fair market value.
“Much as these people are struggling, I think this is too big of a subsidy.”
Other councillors, however, favoured granting all three requests.
“We’ve handed out a lot of money to other things,” said Coun. Mike Goetz. “I’d rather be proactive, than reactive.”
Coun. Harry Kroeker also said he would like to grant the requests to help the organization recoup its lost revenue.
In a letter to council, Agency Director Sheri Bishop indicated Nicola Family Therapy would be seeking private donations and submitting several grant applications, but explained that most grants would not be available until 2013.
“This will be one year that we’re helping them,” said Kroeker. “They don’t know how they’ll be impacted.”
Kroeker, Goetz and Mayor Susan Roline supported the request, while Murdoch voted against the motion. Coun. Dave Baker and Coun. Clara Norgaard were not present.