The Eagle Valley Snowmobile Grooming Society will be receiving an advance on their $20,000, 2013 grant-in-aid request to the district for work that may resolve parking and safety issues off Solsqua-Sicamous Road.
At their last meeting, council approved a request from the society for an advance of $13,440 to build a road to a parking area at 1721 Hillier Road that is being donated for use by sledders.
Works services manager Grady MacDonald noted concerns have been expressed by the RCMP and residents of Solsqua about sledders travelling along the road, adding he considered the parking lot a good idea.
Coun. Fred Busch was uncomfortable with the idea of passing the request, which council had just been informed of. He suggested council follow staff’s recommendation to wait to consider the request with all of the 2013 grant-in-aid requests.
Eagle Valley Snowmobile Grooming Society (EVSGS) general manager Gord Bushell said the society realized applications wouldn’t be looked at until the new year. He explained, however, that the property’s owner, Greg Darroch, has encouraged the work to be done this year to keep sledders from parking along the road.
“That’s our biggest problem with Queest is our attendance there is very low because we don’t have any parking,” said Bushell. “There’s no place for any of the big trailers to park. So he’s offered it to us, and because the weather is so good he’s said he can probably get it in this year. And… we had some money that we already spent over on Owl’s Head, and we didn’t have funds to get this done this year… We know what kind of fix the district is in with everything going on this year. but we thought we’d ask…”
District financial services director Ruth Walper explained the advance, if granted, would be reflected in the financial statements as a grant in aid for 2012, adding that council already approved all 2012 grant-in-aid requests in their entirety, exceeding the district policy threshold. Walper did suggest council, if approving the advance, could reduce the money available for district grants in 2013.
Council faced another roadblock from district community planning officer Mike Marrs, who explained the zoning on Darroch’s property is large holdings, which wouldn’t permit the parking area. He suggested the owner apply for a temporary use permit, and work towards rezoning.
Unlike Busch, Coun. Terry Rysz was all for making the request happen, both for the sledding community as well as the community at large.
“I personally drive this road every day of the year and the safety issue is a serious concern, and I’ve seen several… and I’ve almost cracked up at that particular intersection there,” said Rysz. “So I definitely support this. We should be looking at this not only from an economic point of view. It’s also a great opportunity… However we can make it work, I think we should try to make it work.”
Coun. Greg Kyllo, acting as council chair, said he fully supported the snowmobiling industry and all it does to bring business to the community. But he too had reservations about the request.
“Personally, I feel it would be premature at this point to make a commitment on funds without having to proceed with all the applications and going through our budget deliberations,” said Kyllo. “Having said that. It certainly sounds like around this table that you’ve got the support of council.”
When it came time to vote on a motion to approve the advance, only Busch was opposed.
Walper told the News Monday the district is looking into where the grant funding will come from.
“It will either be from unspent funds for this year or from prior years,” Walper explained in an email. “The management team will be reviewing the expenditures for 2012 over the next month or so and will put forward recommendations for an amended 2012-2020 Financial Plan.”