More than $200,000 in city grants approved
With just four days to go at least 1,200 people have already registered online for Welland Floatfest, which sees people on any kind of inflatable flotation device float down the recreational waterway. BERND FRANKE/Welland Tribune File
Despite concerns about being fair to Welland’s two largest social service agencies, Hope Centre will receive substantially more city funding than Open Arms Mission this year.
“I feel it’s like we’re playing favourites with the two agencies,” said Ward 1 Coun. Mary Ann Grimaldi, while debating allocating more than $200,000 in permissive grants Tuesday night.
“I don’t want to play favourites. I don’t want to be seen as playing favourites,” she said.
She said the two agencies provide similar services and face similar expenses, and yet the city has historically provided far more support to Hope Centre.
While granting Hope Centre its full funding request of $65,000, city staff recommended only providing $12,500 to Open Arms Mission — half the amount the organization requested this year.
Grimaldi suggested instead adding up the recommended grant allocations to the two agencies, and divvying it up equally so Hope Centre and Open Arms would each receive $38,750.
Although most councillors supported providing Open Arms with its full grant request of $25,000 plus $760 in waiving of fees, they opposed exceeding that request to provide equal funding for the two organizations.
Councillors also opted to provide grants for several groups that city staff recommended against funding, including Hospice Niagara and Welland Floatfest.
While Hospice Niagara will receive $5,000 in funding, Floatfest organizers will receive $6,473 in grants and waiving of fees to hold their second annual event this summer.
Although city staff recommended against approving Hospice Niagara’s application because it was submitted late, while Floatfest’s organizers have not registered as a charity, councillors enthusiastically overlooked those issues.
Mayor Frank Campion urged councillors to support the funding request from Hospice Niagara.
“It’s a very valuable service that’s much needed in our community,” he said.
Ward 6 Coun. Bonnie Fokkens was one of several councillors who praised Welland Floatfest after attending last summer.
“I thought it was a novel idea for the residents of Welland,” she said of the event that lured hundreds of people to lounge on inflatables in the recreational canal. “I strongly believe that it’s an event that we could stand behind with a little bit of support.”
Ward 3 Coun. John Chiocchio called it “the most unbelievable event I’ve ever seen organized.”
“It was well-executed. Nothing went wrong … If anyone deserves a little bit of cash to help them out, it’s this group here.”
Other large funding allocations include $39,479 to Welland Rose Festival, $25,000 to Rose City Kids, and $20,000 to Faith Welland Outreach.
City council had previously approved a budget allocation of $216,407 for permissive grants, as well as $46,500 for waiving of fees.
Any funds left unallocated within the budgets will be made available when needed throughout the year.