Two city councillors have locked horns over a $20,000 heritage grant for a local church recently awarded by city council.
Council voted last month to allocate a heritage facade grant to St. Paul's Anglican Church in downtown Nanaimo. The structure was built in 1931, and work is currently underway to renovate its roof.
The church had applied to the city for the grant, but there was only $10,000 left in the grant fund. That is because council had previously voted to award $10,000 of the available funds to a business that is renovating the old Nanaimo Daily Free Press building on Commercial Street.
Council voted to dip into its contingency fund for the other $10,000 in order to provide the full requested amount to St. Paul's.
The church announced this week it has plans to rebuild its church hall, a $3.3-million endeavor. The church has $1 million in cash, but will need to fundraise the rest.
In an email to colleagues, Coun. Bill McKay said he felt "duped" and "a sucker" in light of the news.
"When asked to speak about the roof, Councillor (Diane) Brennan pointed out that the roof was 84 years old and was in a very sad state of repair," McKay wrote in an email. "In other words, while the church pays no property tax on the building and had 84 years to save up for a new roof, they couldn't have possibly done it without our $20K contribution.
"Then I read on the front page of the newspaper that they have $1 (million) in the bank!" McKay said the city should stick within its budgets, and also said he was upset that he was not made aware of the church hall expansion.
"I gotta tell you, if I had known they had a million dollars in the bank, I would have told them to wait until next year," said McKay, who voted with his colleagues to award the grant. "My concern is that when we put budgets in place and the budgets are spent, that we shouldn't be looking elsewhere for money."
In a reply to McKay, Brennan said that the grant applications are not assessed based on financial need.
"That's the program. If you don't like the program, change the program," she said.
Brennan, who chairs the city's heritage commission also said council had to dip into the contingency fund because council had exceeded the recommended grant awarded to the Free Press building.
St. Paul's archdeacon Brian Evans said funds for the church hall project cannot be used to cover the roof upgrades.
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