BONNYVILLE — On Tuesday, three local organizations spoke before Town of Bonnyville council, requesting continued financial assistance. For some it was a matter of keeping the lights on.
Although five organizations were expected to give a 10-minute presentation before council, only representatives from the Bonnyville and District SPCA, Bonnyville Curling Club and the Pontiacs Jr. A hockey club attended virtually.
The Bonnyville and District SPCA sought the highest amount of financial support, asking council for $50,000.
Charlene Rask, the president of the local SPCA said, “For the past few years, we've received $50,000 from the town and $50,000 from the MD. We get a lot of generous donations from businesses and people in the community but of course again this year was unprecedented.”
Speaking to changes the non-profit organization made to adjust to circumstances created by the pandemic, she said “To deal with this past year we've had to do a lot of changes and our manager has fine-tuned our hours of operation, we've had to do some cutting back of some staff and cutting back hours.”
Rask thanked the Town’s council for its previous contributions adding, “Our board of directors is formally asking, and requesting that we continue this partnership that we have. And if you could continue the $50,000 per year as a long-term commitment to the Bonnyville and District SPCA so that we can keep providing you this vital service that we do bring.”
In April of 2020 to March of 2021, the Bonnyville SPCA took in 299 animals, had 125 adoptions and 35 lost animals were reunited with their families, said Rask. During that same time period, they had a total of 68 dog intakes and a total cat intake of 191 – an area of concern says Rask, referring to the level of feral cats living in the town.
The possibility of a spay-and-neuter clinic to address the wild cat population was mentioned by councillors. However, Rask says an additional $4,000 would be needed to facilitate a pop-up clinic.
A separate spay-and-neuter project between the SPCA and Town will likely come back to council to address the feral cat population, eluded Rask.
Bleak year for curling
Colin Hanusz, the president of the Bonnyville Curling Club, painted a bleak picture of how the last year has gone for the club before requesting $20,000 in support.
“We had a pretty poor year last year, as you can expect through the pandemic. We were shut down all of last year other than three weeks. We kept the ice plant running for a couple months, hoping that restrictions would come off and we could operate. That didn't happen we end up shutting it right down as a result we lost $45,000 last year — This is a terrible year for us,” Hanusz told council.
Moving forward, Hanusz says the plan for the club is to start preparing the ice in October to be ready when the curling season starts Nov. 1. Although any plans to open could be impacted by provincial health regulations, he admits.
Accompanying his request for municipal funding, Hanusz asked if a stipulation could be made to allow Town financing to be used to keep the lights on.
“The money we've received was always put in for repairs and maintenance in the facility in the past. We'd like to request to be able to spend that money on utilities. It's mainly utilities that's bleeding us dry. All this time, we couldn’t operate, we were still paying power, gas, water on the facility and it's been tough,” he told council.
Council heard that the monthly cost to run the curling rink is $4,000 when the ice plant is running and $2,000 when it’s not.
Coun. Ray Prevost asked if diverting funds to utility costs would impact necessary repairs for the club. In response, Hanusz said, “Not necessarily... we've done a lot of work over the past couple years. We had looked at saving that money in a pool for future maintenance but in light of the current pandemic, we're just looking to survive.”
Benefits to benefit others
Seeking the same financial contribution from the Town as last year, Bonnyville Pontiacs Jr. A Hockey Club’s Assistant General Manager and coach, Neil Langridge, asked for $15,000 in assistance.
Similar to last year, if the Town were to approve the Pontiacs funding request, the hockey club intends to use the funds for the community ambassador program, said Langridge.
The Pontiacs community ambassador program allowed the club to provide the lowest priced ticket for game attendance in the entire AJHL. The program, which also provided tickets for Dove Centre staff, was a way for the club to try and attract young families to Jr. A games, Langridge explained.
“Last year was a very difficult one for us. We not only got through it, we were able to apply and receive some grants through the Alberta government that allowed us to continue our operation, but we did have to put some of the costs back onto the players,” he said.
Wanting to get fans back in the arena seats, Langridge told council, “We'd love to continue this program that helps us offset some of the loss from the ticket revenue by offering the lower ticket prices... Our fans that have been itching to watch hockey for the last 18 months back into the building and supporting us.”
Council also heard that for the past five to six years, the operational costs of running the local AJHL team is roughly up to $800,000.
“The majority of our income and the largest portion of our income is through sponsorship every year,” said Langridge. “The other portion of it comes from game day revenue. And so, this year obviously and last year are the areas that we deeply lacked in. We are hopeful to turn things around this year and have (game day revenue) come back and be another good contributing factor for our books.”
Town council will make decisions on funding approval based on the delegates presentations at a future meeting.