The Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) received a COVID-19 Safe Restart Grant worth $897,000 to be allocated in three ways; $381,746 to internal COVID-19 related expenses, $132,047 to electoral area services, and $383,207 for consideration by the rural directors committee.
Of that money for the rural directors committee to allocate, $353,817.92 remains, and a recent RDBN board meeting sparked a spirited discussion between electoral representatives regarding how those funds should be divided up.
Several of the representatives discussed a plan to move $175,000 which was initially recommended to be put into municipal recreation to the contingency pot instead, which currently holds just $15,077.03. The reasoning is due to the fact that there is so much unknown about COVID-19 and when it will end, so it would be prevalent to save money as a contingency for now in case COVID carries into 2022 and further. This topic was not agreed upon between representatives however, and no decision was made on how much should be put into contingency during the board meeting.
Another topic of discussion was the Smithers Regional Airport, which was initially recommended to receive $100,000. As the only airport in the region with commercial flight service, the airport suffered significant loss of revenue due to COVID-19 because of cancellations by commercial carriers. The result of the losses has caused the town of Smithers to anticipate a future deficit of $540,000 in required capital reserve allocations.
This proposal however was not received well by certain electoral representatives, particularly those based in the eastern part of the region. The rebuttal was that putting 35 per cent of the remaining funds into an airport in one town is quite a lot and doesn’t help the rest of the region. This topic was also tabled and no decision was made on how much money will be allocated to the airport.
The only approval of fund allocation that came from the meeting was to community groups. The board approved an allocation of $12,740.89 to three community groups in the local area. The Lake Kathlyn Protection Society in Smithers will receive $8,430.61, the Colleymount Recreation Society in Burns Lake will receive $2,710.28, and the A Rocha Hatchery in Houston will receive $1,600.
The funding given to A Rocha will go towards an outdoor meeting space. A Rocha recently completed renovations on a new outdoor wildlife habitat, as well as a nature centre.
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