Clegg’s Corner – Omission difficult to understand

by Chris Clegg
Editor, South Peace News

Last year, the Town of High Prairie and Big Lakes County councils each forwarded $568,145.52 to the High Prairie and District Regional Recreation Board for operations. That’s just over $1.136 million.

This year, the county wanted to increase the budget. They passed the budget while the town council said no. Both councils are forwarding money based on last year’s numbers so the board can continue to operate while they hammer out a new budget.

One item in the budget the recreation board passed a few months ago was that no funding was provided for the annual Seniors’ Week barbecue. It was a strange move, seeing that the two councils had every reasonable expectation to assume that the barbecue would be included. The budget was passed, yet not one recreation board member announced this item was cut.

Fast forward to May 10. Town council received a request to fund the barbecue. They refused.

Good for them! This is merely a downloading of a responsibility the recreation board gleefully assumed years ago. If the recreation board wanted to relieve themselves of this responsibility, they should have informed both the town and county councils of its desire when they passed the budget and forwarded it to the town and county councils for approval.

That did not happen. You have to wonder why. Why was this kept a secret? Now the pressure is on to fund the barbecue, which is only weeks away, or scrap it.

If town council agreed to pay any more money for this event, the recreation board should have the estimated $1,600 cost deleted from its budget. Otherwise, they would be provided with the same money as last year and providing less service.

It’s difficult to understand why the recreation board would continue to fund an approximate $450,000 yearly deficit at the indoor pool, yet cut the seniors barbecue. Is the bloated indoor pool deficit a sacred cow no one can touch but a seniors program fair game for the ax?

Some may find it even more perplexing that the recreation board gets over $1.1 million a year, but can’t find $1,600 in its budget.

And why did the recreation board members not announce to their respective councils that they decided to cut this service? I would suggest if the county members told their fellow councillors the barbecue was slashed from the budget, a final vote just might have been a little bit different. I can’t see Ann Stewart or Ed Podollan in favour of this move, but I could be wrong.

There may be one other possibility for the omission. Perhaps staff and recreation board members simply forgot to include the barbecue in the budget. If that’s the case, the fault lies squarely on the backs of the politicians who approved it. They did not carefully peruse the budget to see what was going on.

The recreation board is currently preparing another budget. The new budget should include the barbecue. Somewhere in that $1.136 million there must be $1,600.

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