Over the objections of two councillors, Osoyoos council has decided to donate $40,000 to the Osoyoos Desert Society to help replace the decrepit trailers that house its interpretive centre.
Two motions from an April 16 closed council meeting were brought forward Monday for approval in public.
The first motion was to designate the Desert Society project as eligible for Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) funding and the second to approve the $40,000 expenditure.
Chief administrative officer Barry Romanko explained Monday that the issue was first discussed in camera to protect the society’s other fund-raising efforts.
“They were making application to other funding sources and if council had dealt with this in open meeting, it may have influenced the other funding sources,” he said. “If the other sources found out that council gave money, they (might) say, ‘The town gave them money (so) we don’t have to.’”
During the seven-week interval between the meetings, town administration received approval from the province to expend RMI funds on the project. The $10.5-million provincial program provides funds for tourism-related projects. Osoyoos usually gets about $400,000 a year.
Councillor CJ Rhodes said in an interview Monday that it wasn’t the idea of helping the society he objected to in the in-camera session, but rather the amount
“I didn’t vote against the principle of it,” said Rhodes. “I thought it was good idea for us to help them out. It is a serious tourist attraction in our city.
“What I was trying to debate was … more the amount than the idea of helping them out. I was trying to get them down around the 20-to-25,000 dollar mark. … I kind of felt that 40,000 was too much.”
Desert Society executive director Denise Eastlick said in an interview today the society is attempting to raise about $100,000 to replace the buildings that house the interpretive exhibits and admissions area. “The $40,000 will go into our building account and will be used for the replacement building.”
The three trailers currently in use suffered significant damage over the winter. “We did the repairs so that we could open for the season,” said Eastlick, “(But) it’s unlikely the building could get through another winter.”
The plan at this point is to purchase one 12-foot-by-60-foot trailer to replace the three smaller ones.
Councillor Mike Campol also voted against the second motion. However, he wasn’t at Monday’s council meeting, having been in Halifax for the annual Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference from last Thursday through Sunday. He didn’t return telephone calls Monday evening or today.