After a long and heated discussion at the June 25 regular meeting, city council approved $14,500 for the Nicola Valley Community Arts Council’s cultural mapping group.

The group requested $9,500 for 2013 but were supposed to be awarded $5,000 in 2012, which went unclaimed after a lapse in communication between the city and the arts council.

Arts council president Chelsea Werrun said she was relieved to hear about getting the funding.

“We are super excited that we were provided that funding and it’s more than we expected,” she said.

Werrun said the group was unaware they were to receive $5,000 in 2012. The money was awarded to the arts council’s cultural mapping group who were chosen to undertake the city’s cultural mapping initiative.

After the money went unclaimed, it was put back into excess funds at the end of the year, Merritt Mayor Susan Roline told the Herald.

“They came to us now wanting $9,500 for the project, but council decided to add that extra five on to it too,” Roline said.

At the meeting, City of Merritt Chief Administrative Officer Matt Noble requested pushing back the request for $9,500 to the 2014 budget.

He said the arts council did not apply for funding by the deadline of Nov. 30, 2012 for funding in 2013.

Coun. Harry Kroeker said he thought it was a mistake not to go back and give the cultural mapping group the $5,000 they were supposed to get from council in 2012.

Councillors Kurt Christopherson and Alastair Murdoch said they wanted to see the arts council still receive the $5,000. Murdoch said the city should have sent the arts council the money right away instead of waiting for them to ask for it beacause council asked them to undertake the project. He also said he wanted to see the group receive additional money that was requested this year.

Noble said no one in administration disagreed with providing the $5,000, although it did not exist as it was put back into retained earnings after going unclaimed. The request was how to deal with the request of $9,500, he said.

Coun. Mike Goetz made a motion to approve the $9,500, which carried unanimously. Murdoch then made a motion that council also approve the overdue $5,000.

Goetz and Coun. Dave Baker said they were against adding that additional money.

In the end, the $5,000 passed by a vote of 4-3 with Kroeker, Christopherson, Murdoch and Norgaard voting in favour of the extra money.

Christopherson was a long-time director for the arts council but resigned from the board in the winter during conflict of interest debates at city hall, and remains a member of the group.

Roline said the cultural mapping project was started by council in 2010 in an effort to create an inventory pertaining to all of Merritt’s arts, culture and heritage. This involved identifying all of Merritt’s historical buildings, arts committees and galleries, and the programs that go with them.

Werrun said that inventory report was done by the Arlington Group – a Vancouver-based planning and architecture consulting group – which created a report with a map of all the cultural groups and activities in Merritt. The report also outlined the successes and challenges of the city’s arts and culture scene, she said.

Werrun said the Arlington Group then recommended that the NVCAC champion the implementation of the cultural map project. The arts council then met with stakeholders identified in the report and presented 13 recommendations to city council last year.

Some of those recommendations have already been implemented, such as the calendar of community events on the city’s website, Werrun said.

She added the city also asked the arts council to develop an arts and culture policy.

Roline said this arts, culture and heritage policy will demonstrate two things.

“First of all, it shows the community and outside groups that the council of the city recognizes the importance of arts, culture and heritage within our community,” said Roline. “And the second part of that policy – what it’s intended to do – is to show grant funders (0the federal government and the provincial government) that our community is serious about arts, culture and heritage.”

Werrun said the goal now is to implement a cultural mapping policy, adding the project is important for Merritt as tourism relies heavily on a community’s arts and culture.

“When you go to other communities or you travel anywhere in the world, what are you going to see? You’re going to see the place, the location, the scenery and all of that, but you’re also going to experience a different way of life that relates to the arts, culture and heritage, and Merritt has so many wonderful little pieces of that,” Werrun said.