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City doles out annual grants, external agency funding

McConkey, Gray have heated debate over questions to finance staff

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

Budget season has arrived in Oshawa, and local groups and organizations are looking for their share of money from city hall.

The city’s finance committee considered applications for 2019 anchor and partnership grants ahead of the first budget meeting on Nov. 8.

The grants are provided to Oshawa-based, not-for-profit, volunteer-driven organizations.

Staff recommended nine anchor grant applications for approval and asked councillors for direction on six that were found to exceed the grant programs funding cap of $237,100.

The committee approved the following applications:

– $58,000 to the Boys and Girls Club of Durham to fund breakfast and after-school programs.

– $42,200 grant and $4,870 in-kind services to the Friends of Second Marsh for operating costs, the Second Marsh management plan, stewardship events, and expenses related to education and interpretation activities, as well as office space at the Art Resource Centre.

– $26,900 in-kind services to the Motor City Car Club for the use of city services at the annual Autofest event.

– $3,300 grant and $1,400 in-kind services to the Oshawa Children’s Community Fair to purchase a stage, ground activities, and in-kind use of Memorial Park.

– $10,000 grant and $13,300 in-kind services to the Oshawa Folk Art Council to assist organizations in the construction costs of floats and the parade during Fiesta Week.

– $33,500 in-kind services to Oshawa Rotary Ribfest for planning, set up, and use of Lakeview Park.

– $21,100 grant to the Oshawa Sports Hall of Fame to fund the 2020 induction ceremony and dinner.

– $6,000 grant to Santa’s Parade of Lights to help offset costs of the event.

The committee denied a $10,000 request for in-kind services to the Motor City Car Club for additional parking costs for Autofest.

A decision on the Oshawa BIA’s request for $25,000 in-kind services for downtown events was delayed until the BIA’s budget is completed later this fall.

The committee also approved 11 partnership grants applicants.

These include:

– $5,000 for Autism Home Base Durham Inc. for new drop-in sessions where volunteers connect with autistic adults and their parent caregivers.

– $5,000 for the Canadian Automotive Museum for a planned exhibit called Oshawa Automotive Community.

– $16,130 of in-kind services to CIBC Run for the Cure for rental costs of Lakeview Park, and associated city staff costs.

– $5,000 to the Durham Youth Orchestra for items such as venue rental fees, advertising and printing, hiring professional guests, royalty fees, equipment and instrument rentals, maintenance costs, and subsidizing membership fees.

– $5,000 to Gate 3:16 for a “mission van” project to allow a team to provide necessities to residents in south Oshawa and to continue counselling services.

– $5,000 of in-kind services for the Oshawa Emergency Services slo-pitch tournament for costs associated with the event.

– $3,500 to Oshawa FireFit to subsidize costs associated with the event including security, licensing and rental of the parking lot at DelPark Homes Centre.

– $5,000 to Simcoe Hall Settlement House to improve the facility’s ability to deliver services such as a food bank and after-school programming.

– $2,500 of in-kind services to the Refuge Youth Outreach Centre for city services associated with running a quarter-mile marathon including road closures, and ensuring the safety of roads, sidewalks, trails and parks.

– $3,598 of in-kind services to Their Opportunity for rental of the Oshawa Civic Recreation Complex for the Dimes 4 Time assembly and activity day event.

The committee also denied applications from Driftwood Theatre Group, the Durham Region International Film Festival, Durham Storytellers, First Light Foundation of Hope, Kids’ Safety Village of Durham Region, Luke’s Place, and We Grow Food.

A request from PFLAG Durham Region was deferred pending discussions with the region’s social services department.

A $5,000 grant for the Alano Club of Oshawa was approved, however, the organization had originally requested $125,000, plus $1,720 of in-kind services.

Randy Hickey of Alano House told committee it is a non-profit organization that helps those facing alcohol and other addiction issue.

Hickey said they’ve owned their building for 30 years, and have always been self-supporting.

However, the building at 200 Thornton Rd. N. doesn’t currently meet required accessibility needs.

Hickey says the costs for building accessible washrooms and a wheelchair ramp and lift “exceeds anything we can get through charitable donations.”

Ward 1 city councillor Rosemary McConkey suggested they apply for an Ontario Trillium Fund grant, but Alano Club representatives say they were told that the program is currently on hold.

The committee also approved a request of $25,000 over five years from Catholic Family Services for capital expenses tied to the organization’s move to a new home on Simcoe Street South.

 

Councillors clash over questions to staff 

Another item about the organization later led to a heated debate between McConkey and Ward 5 city councillor John Gray, also chair of the committee.

McConkey was asking about a $4,000 corporate payment made to Catholic Family Services in June.

Commissioner of finance Stephanie Sinnott noted this was a property tax rebate provided to charitable organizations.

However, McConkey continued to question the city’s long monthly list of corporate payments, believing there was a lack of information regarding them.

While Sinnott said McConkey’s questions were legitimate, she noted she didn’t have all the information to answer them at the time.

“Anytime in the past when councillors have had a question or wanted a little bit more information, they’d forward their request to staff,” Sinnott said.

McConkey then asked if the commissioner was confident in the “effectiveness” of the city’s internal controls.

Sinnott said her department had a team of qualified accountants that are “highly skilled in internal controls,” and the city was audited by companies such as KMPG and Deloitte every year.

At that point, Gray appeared to lose patience with McConkey’s questions.

“If you want any information on any payment you as a councillor can ask that of staff… I thought you were going to ask some logical questions… unfortunately, I was wrong,” he said.

McConkey then responded that she feels there is a problem with the system, but Gray said there really isn’t, and told her to “do her homework.”

“I’ve been through this before… where everyone is checking through every cheque. Staff has integrity too – they are not going to vouch for something that is not legitimate,” he said.

Gray then accused McConkey of “grandstanding,” a claim she denied profusely.

“You are… if you can’t have the decency to tell staff what your questions are ahead of time, I don’t know what else to call it but grandstanding,” Gray retorted.

McConkey said she found Gray’s comments “extremely offensive.”

“And I have done my homework,” she added.

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