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Bonnyville Bingo holding out hope MD will lend a hand

20.16.01.BINGO
Susan Turner, on behalf of the Bonnyville Bingo Association, explained their need for the MD's financial support during their committee meeting on Wednesday morning. Photo by Meagan MacEachern.

BONNYVILLE - The Bonnyville Bingo Association is in dire straits.

That was the message group representative Susan Turner expressed to the MD of Bonnyville council Wednesday morning.

Turner explained why they need their application for the municipality's $25,000 community action grant to be approved, after council denied their request in the fall.

“I think there’s a little misunderstanding on what we’re asking for from the MD," stated Turner.

After being forced to find a new location when their lease with the Bonnyville Centennial Centre was allowed to expire last year, the bingo association settled on a home that required renovating.

“Getting a contractor and finding a building, we had to get our costs in order. The clubs were okay with us having to increase our expenses, meaning they would take less of a profit every month because we now have to pay a $140,000 loan, which is $2,700 per month,” Turner explained, adding the way the local bingo association operates is for every bingo an organization works, they receive $800.

However, in 2019, the association had to close up shop for two months, resulting in lost profits for all of the groups.

Not only that, Turner said, but the contractors hired to renovate their new space went over budget.

“What happened was at the end of our construction period our contractors went way over their estimates. We had only secured $140,000 from the bank, we’re a non-profit, we don’t have that kind of money,” explained Turner, adding in total, the companies hired to do the job had gone over by $22,000.

This meant the bingo association had to increase their expenses, taking a cut out of the clubs' monthly profits.

"What’s happened is the clubs got a cheque for $600 in September, then when we got that final bill we thought, ‘oh my, we have to take away more money because we have to pay these contractors.’ They only received a profit check of $200 in October, don’t forget they didn’t get any cheques for July or August either,” she outlined to council. “In November, they got an $80 cheque. We just finished our December paperwork, and it’s zero, and we still have to pay these contractors."

Turner continued, “It will almost be a year until we pay these final contractors, that will take us to July where these clubs will have zero profit cheques from us every month because we’ve had to take away all of the money we’re making because of this fact."

According to Turner, the association applied for the MD's community action grant with the idea that the $25,000 would offset some of their costs by paying off a portion of their $140,000 bank loan.

The MD denied their request for financial assistance, leaving the bingo association wondering why.

“Now on the community action grant, it says to me on the application form, on the policy it states that the grant is available to eligible community organizations where the events and programs that we provide are aimed at community wellness, arts, culture, recreation, sports, and also capital projects undertaken by organizations for renovation, retrofitting, or upgrading a facility’s current infrastructure, which is what we had to do in order to continue holding bingos in the Town of Bonnyville,” expressed Turner.

The group has been offering bingos in the area since 1986, and they have no intent of stopping.

"I believe we fit into the criteria of that $25,000 community action grant. My fear is if we don’t, because we still have those contractors’ outstanding bills… is if the clubs won’t be getting any profit cheques for the next six months, they’re probably going to throw their hands in the air and think ‘well, what are we working bingos for?’”

Turner noted if the clubs no longer have the bingo association's profit cheques to rely on, they may be forced to increase their membership fees, passing the expense onto their users.

She added, “I would just like to say that we’re in dire straits, through no fault of our own. The contractors went over their estimates and it’s out of our control. We really need your help so that we can continue having bingos in the community."

Coun. Dana Swigart said he was "glad to see bingo is doing so well," considering last year was the worst they've seen in over 32 years.

Council accepted Turner's presentation as information.

Meagan MacEachern, Bonnyville Nouvelle