Fundraising group gets lost in administrative shuffle

“Right now I’m frustrated, upset and quite frankly, embarrassed” Coun. Loanna Gulka

By not following its own grant policies, town council may have jeopardized the plans of one fundraising group in Ponoka.

Coun. Loanna Gulka took issue with council approving $25,000, during their meeting Nov. 12 and without following the proper grant application process, for the Lions and Kinettes Centennial Park Playground project.

She voiced her opinion on the matter during council’s regular meeting Nov. 25 and expressed her displeasure that another group, the Ponoka Elementary School (PES) playground fundraising committee was not heard.

She said she was pleased to support the Lions and Kinettes but felt the PES group should also have been heard.

The PES fundraising committee is raising money to install a new playground at the school as they have to tear down aging playground equipment next year.

“Right now I’m frustrated, upset and quite frankly, embarrassed,” stated Gulka.

She says council already had a process in place for groups to apply for money but at council’s Nov. 12 meeting, special consideration was given to the Lions and Kinettes in order for them to maximize grant funding through Community Facility and Enhancement Program (CFEP), the same grant the PES group are applying to.

“I want to know why their requests have not been brought forward…their funding is contingent on a CFEP grant that has to be put into place by the end of the year,” said Gulka.

“They’ve had this in play since March,” she added.

The PES group was scheduled to meet with council during a Committee of the Whole meeting Dec. 18, but it was cancelled, as there were not enough councillors in town to make up a quorum. No decisions can be made at a Committee of the Whole meeting, so requests made would be for information purposes only.

“We didn’t follow through with that meeting therefore they’re hung out to dry,” stated Gulka.

While Gulka was not at the Nov. 12 meeting she said the PES group should still not have had to be left on the backburner.

Coun. Carla Prediger suggested the issue was with PES group as she says council had only received a request for a letter of support earlier in the year.

“At that time there was no discussion nor asking, or implication, of financial support,” she stated.

However, the PES group had approached town administration and councillors some months ago to request funds similar to the Lions and Kinettes, but their request never made it to the agenda as they were told the town would most likely consider the request in the New Year.

Prediger suggested the group could meet with the volunteer Recreation Committee at their next meeting to discuss their project but time is running out. The group sent several communications to town administration after hearing the Nov. 18 meeting was cancelled. The deadline for the CFEP grant is Dec. 15 as the PES playground committee hopes to start construction in 2015.

Town of Ponoka administration had also stated at the Nov. 12 meeting that Ponoka County had committed $25,000 to the Centennial Park, but the county clarified it had not actually made any decisions regarding the matter.

Council approves new grant application process

One of the reasons Gulka took issue with the oversight is council has been in the process of reviewing the town’s grant application policies. Approval of the new policy could affect the playground committee.

The PES group had been informed some months ago they would get a chance to apply for funding once the policy was approved, unlike the Lions and Kinettes, but requests from councillors to change the wording also delayed approval of the new policy.

Wes Amendt, director of community services, presented the amended proposed policy suggested from the previous meeting Nov. 12. “I recommend that we review the application process after its first year,” Amendt advised.

Prediger reiterated her desire that groups who apply for $1,000 or less should not be expected to provide financial statements. “They should though, be expected to give this much information for $1,000 or more.”

Amendt replied that other municipalities use a similar form and have the same expectations if groups need money.

Mayor Rick Bonnett replied that if a group seeks money, they should expect to provide financial statements. He added that for smaller amounts, groups may not need to do that.

CAO Rachel Kunz feels providing information is reasonable. “You should have these answers,” she said.

She added some municipalities require that information for $500 requests.

Council approved the new grant application policy but as Ponoka News went to press, there was no decision on a special meeting for the PES playground committee.