Coun­cil de­bates city’s part in CCDA

Coun. McIn­tosh says scale­back is over­due while an­other says do­ing so would send the wrong mes­sage

Medicine Hat News - - FRONT PAGE - COLLIN GAL­LANT cgal­[email protected]­hat­news.com Twit­ter: CollinGal­lant

A city coun­cil­lor call­ing for cuts to a long-stand­ing mu­nic­i­pal grant to the City Cen­tre De­vel­op­ment Agency says it’s time to scale back the city’s re­la­tion­ship with the down­town de­vel­op­ment group, though an­other says coun­cil should stay out of the pol­i­tics of the in­de­pen­dent group.

Coun. Jamie McIn­tosh told coun­cil on Mon­day he feels city hall has “way too much in­volve­ment” in the CCDA.

“That’s just the way it’s de­vel­oped over the years, but it’s time we took a look” at that re­la­tion­ship, he said.

McIn­tosh later told re­porters that with the cur­rent $100,000 an­nual grant, city hall rep­re­sen­ta­tion on the board, coun­cil ap­point­ing all board mem­bers, and the city’s se­cur­ing of the Monarch The­atre loan in 2009, he feels per­cep­tion is that city hall is run­ning the or­ga­ni­za­tion that has been heav­ily crit­i­cized from some quar­ters.

He feels it’s time for busi­ness own­ers take full re­spon­si­bil­ity for the group, or de­cide if it should con­tinue.

“I prob­a­bly should have made this mo­tion five years ago to get it on the ta­ble and peo­ple talk­ing about it,” said McIn­tosh, re­fer­ring his time as coun­cil’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive on the CCDA board.

“A pos­si­ble so­lu­tion is to get the down­town stake­hold­ers to let coun­cil know how they truly feel about the or­ga­ni­za­tion. Give a call and let us know how you truly feel about the CCDA pro­vid­ing value for money.”

Since the early 1980s the or­ga­ni­za­tion has ex­isted as a busi­ness im­prove­ment zone, sep­a­rate from the city un­der pro­vin­cial leg­is­la­tion, and able to col­lect a levy from its busi­ness op­er­a­tors to pro­mote the core and spur in­vest­ment.

Over the years how­ever, fac­tions have com­plained that prob­lems still per­sist, and sev­eral groups have at­tempted to gar­ner enough sup­port to force a ref­er­en­dum to dis­solve the or­ga­ni­za­tion but with­out suc­cess.

At other times, groups have pe­ti­tioned coun­cil­lors di­rectly to change per­son­nel or force change.

The po­ten­tial cuts, which were tabled on Mon­day un­til in­put from the CCDA could be ob­tained, were al­ter­nately sup­ported as be­ing bud­get con­scious or lev­el­ling the play­ing field for busi­ness own­ers else­where in the city.

Coun. Robert Du­manowski said he was con­cerned that coun­cil is get­ting in the mid­dle of an­other group’s in­ter­nal pol­i­tics, and if the city is go­ing cut a long­stand­ing grant, then it should be clear on the rea­sons.

“If this is sim­ply about bud­get cuts, then let’s call it such,” said Du­manowski.

“My fear is that we’re mak­ing this a re­buke of the CCDA.”

He said to pull back sup­port when “down­town is mak­ing a turn” is the op­po­site logic ap­plied last fall when coun­cil ex­tended an off-site levy sub­sidy through­out the city so frag­ile eco­nomic re­cov­ery wouldn’t be threat­ened. “It’s con­tra­dic­tory,” he said Most of the CCDA’s $225,000 bud­get is col­lected thought the levy, though the city pro­vides an an­nual $100,000 grant with some re­stric­tions and re­quire­ments, such as to main­tain flowerbeds and hang­ing bas­kets as well as flow grant money to busi­ness own­ers to help pay part of the cost of lease­hold im­prove­ments.

McIn­tosh wants that grant scaled back by $25,000 in 2020.

Coun­cil’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive on the CCDA board, Coun. Kris Sam­raj, said the group met on Tues­day and the board’s view is that if the grant is cut, the re­quire­ments and lease­hold grants will need to be scaled back in con­cert.

He also said the group is get­ting back on track af­ter sev­eral dif­fi­cult years, in­clud­ing a pub­lic blow-up sev­eral years ago over man­age­ment of the Monarch, and a lot of turnover on the board.

“I do think it’s time for a larger con­ver­sa­tion, be­cause we do need to know what at the needs and wishes of the stake­hold­ers,” he said. “That’s been a con­stant is­sue.”

Over the years city coun­cil­lors have ar­gued that they have no le­gal au­thor­ity over the or­ga­ni­za­tion, stress­ing that pro­vin­cial leg­is­la­tion formed and gov­erns the busi­ness.

NEWS PHOTO EMMA BEN­NETT

A city coun­cil­lor is sug­gest­ing the city scale back its in­volve­ment with the City Cen­tre De­vel­op­ment Agency, spark­ing de­bate among coun­cil mem­bers.

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