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Monday , 18 January 2021

County of St. Paul concerned about viability of rural recreation groups

Recreational facilities including Legion Halls, seniors societies and agricultural societies around the County of St. Paul will still be funded for a total of $110,630 in 2020.

The bulk of that funding comes from the provincial MSI grant which will be discontinued after 2021.

Div. 6 Coun. Laurent Amyotte asked when the county will know exactly how much the MSI is being cut back in 2021.

County of St. Paul CAO Sheila Kitz said they won’t get an answer until the province does their budget and that it’s still unclear if the cutback to MSI funding includes both capital and operating.

“They haven’t told us the number and they won’t tell us when they’ll tell us this number,” said Kitz.

In the discussion of the grants, which range from $730 for the Riverview Seniors to $14,500 for the Mallaig & District Ag Society, councillors expressed support for a complete review of the finances for each group.

“I think moving forward, we’re going to need to review these allocations much sooner. I think we need to look at these organization’s financial statements and see what they’re in need of,” said Div. 4 Coun. Maxine Fodness, who noted the county had adjusted the amounts given to recreational groups when they started receiving the MSI Funding in 2013.

Div. 2 Coun. Kevin Wirsta said they need to do more than just review the financial statements.

“Seeing where they’re in need but actually seeing their viability within their organization. Because after this year, I am quite sure some of these you know, I hate to say it, but lots are having a real hard time and I’m not so sure they’re going to exist,” said Wirsta.

Wirsta also pointed out that the volunteer base for many of the groups has been decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread shutdowns in Alberta.

“There’s lots that they’ve had enough. They’re not volunteering after they’ve had a break. That’s why I’m saying I think come September next year we really need to have a look at each one of these organizations from the inside, not from the outside,” said Wirsta.

Council voted to approve the 2020 recreation grant allocations as presented.

About Meredith Kerr

Meredith Kerr moved to St. Paul for a career in journalism and morning radio in 2014 expecting to stay for six months to a year. Since then, she has put down roots in the form of a husband, a mortgage, two babies, and a poorly behaved dog. She continues to work as a reporter until such time as she finishes her book and becomes fabulously wealthy from the royalties. Meredith also serves as a member at large on the St. Paul Library Board and volunteers as a Beaver leader for the 1st St. Paul Scout Group.