City council went against its own process by agreeing to dip into a city grant fund to provide money to the St. Albert Historical Society for its “buffalo hunt” project.
The society wants to place a historical tribute at the southeast corner of Sir Winston Churchill Avenue and Green Grove Drive, the former location of St. Albert’s cenotaph. The new display will include a sculpture depicting the historic buffalo hunts that were common in the area in the 1860s when St. Albert was first settled, said society chair Ray Pinco.
The society approached council last week with a funding request. It had missed the application deadline for the city’s community capital grant and was looking for a quick commitment so it could top up its bid for a matching provincial grant, which had an application deadline of Tuesday this week.
Council called a special meeting for Monday and pledged $12,500 in cash plus $12,500 worth of in-kind services. The money will come from the city’s community capital program.
Normally, the program is administered by the community services advisory committee but the committee didn’t have time to gather and discuss the historical society’s request, so it wasn’t prepared to provide a recommendation to council on the request. The program has about $500,000 but the city received less than $80,000 worth of requests by the March 4 deadline.
Coun. Roger Lemieux felt council should approve the historical project on its own merits.
“The fact that we have the funds in place, the fact that they applied seven days late … is just a formality,” he said. “The intent is still very, very good for St. Albert.”
The society has raised $50,000 for the project but wanted to apply for a $75,000 matching grant from the province.
Coun. Cathy Heron agreed the decision was circumventing the established process but wanted to boost the project with the $25,000 needed to apply for the maximum.
“This just solves the time crunch problem for them today,” she said.
Council had previously voted against a motion to provide $50,000 plus $12,500 in services in kind.
Coun. Malcolm Parker voted no on both motions because he didn’t want to undermine the grant approval process.
“For us to spend this kind of money without having gone through the review process is completely wrong and not fair to our taxpayers,” he said.
After putting out a call for art, the society learned too late that the winning idea would require additional landscaping, Pinco said, so the city capital grant wasn’t a consideration until the deadline had already passed.
The society didn’t want to delay the project an entire year or start spending its money because this would reduce the amount of matching it could access from the province, he said.
“We made a request and then the ball is in council’s court to make a decision. They’re quite empowered to make whatever decision they want. We’re pleased,” Pinco said.
Depending on grant approval and cost estimates, the society wants to install sidewalks, a storyboard, one or two benches and possibly some lighting, Pinco said. The aim is to open the project in time for the opening of the Founder’s Walk on July 24.