The city is sticking with its decision to take over operations of St. Andrews on the Square, while declining to renew an agreement with Kamloops and District Crime Stoppers.
Details of the city’s service agreement review have been made public and the city is finally able to talk openly about the process.
Myriad agreements with different organizations were up for renewal. Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian said the city for the first time undertook a review of all of its service agreements at one time, rather than on a piecemeal basis, in order to get a full picture and ensure agreements were consistent with council priorities. The process was conducted behind closed doors, he said, because it involves city contracts.
City corporate services director Kathy Humphrey said the service agreements total $3.2 million, noting savings were found in limiting annual increases to two per cent over four years. Those savings amount to about $30,000, Humphrey said, money that may be allotted during supplemental budget discussions.
“Council is going to look at how they are going to distribute that potentially to other groups,” Humphrey said. “They want to use that savings to potentially have that money for groups. They have lots and lots of requests every year that want to be funded by the city. They saw this as a way to have these groups be accountable for their services, but then also potentially have money available to other groups that the city would like to support that matches their strategic plan.”
Not renewed were agreements with the Kamloops Heritage Society, which has operated St. Andrews on the Square since 1995, and Kamloops and District Crime Stoppers.
Last year, the city gave the heritage society $10,400. However, Humphrey said savings will not be realized, with that money likely to fund future work on the city’s oldest public building.
No budget for that work could be provided.
Meanwhile, the city will save about $36,000 over the next four years as it strikes a deal with Metro Vancouver Crime Stoppers. Last year, the city paid $19,000 to the local organization and nearly half of that — $10,800 — will be funded in 2020. The vote was not made clear in closed council minutes, but all councillors were present. Coun. Mike O’Reilly moved the motion and Coun. Bill Sarai seconded. Asked why the city is outsourcing Crime Stoppers, Christian said most municipalities are moving toward the provincewide system, where much of the information is collected electronically.
“That’s not to fault the work that the Crime Stoppers group has done in Kamloops over the years,” he said. “It’s just that crime has changed and I think that if you use an old model as your mechanism to solve crime, you’re not going to be as effective as staying with the changes that go on.”
The city’s finance committee chair, Coun. Denis Walsh, told KTW the service is not expected to be diminished. KTW has reached out to the president of Kamloops and District Crime Stoppers for comment and is awaiting a reply.
The city’s planned takeover of St. Andrews on the Square, downtown at Seymour Street and Second Avenue, has been controversial and the closed meeting minutes reveal Walsh sought a financial review of the decision. He made a notice of motion at a closed meeting in November, which was supported only by Coun. Arjun Singh. Reached by KTW, Walsh said he remains unhappy with his motion’s defeat and wants to know exactly what it will cost to take over operations of St. Andrews.
Christian pointed out that Walsh is chair of the committee that oversaw the service agreement review. He said not enough councillors felt there was rationale to reconsider. Humphrey further explained the decision came down to the society not being able to generate enough revenue to maintain the building.
“In my opinion, what we are looking for is the close monitoring of our assets,” Christian said, noting the city’s current asset management planning is underway. “I think it’s prudent for council to have the oversight over such an important historical asset as St. Andrews. In my opinion, the society has done a tremendous job going as far as they can in terms of the operation of the building, but the long-term sustainability of the building, it’s more than you’d ask a volunteer group to take on. From that perspective, I think it’s better to have it in the hands of the city people.”
Meanwhile, the city’s Graffiti Task Force has received only a one-year agreement. The city may look at other options in the future to tackle what it deems a growing issue citywide. Some groups, such as the Kamloops Pipe Band, were given more detailed expectations, with a base funding and the possibility to receive more if a certain number of performances occur.
The largest service agreement renewed by the city was Venture Kamloops, which will receive $633,400 in 2020. Christian explained that while other cities have economic-development departments, Kamloops has opted to fund a society, instead, similar to Tourism Kamloops.
KTW has left calls with those involved with the Graffiti Task Force and Kamloops Heritage Society and is awaiting return calls.