Brandon City Council expects its decision to chip in just under $1.1 million into Keystone Centre capital upgrades will generate matching funds from the federal and provincial governments.
City council approved spending $1,094,974.85 from the 2013 budget to help the four-decade-old convention and events centre fix leaking roofs and other crumbling infrastructure, on the condition that the other levels of government chip in the same funding.
"With the expiration of an infrastructure program, there was a deadline regarding this request," said Coun. Garth Rice (South Centre), who is one of the city’s representatives on the Keystone Centre board.
Coun. Shawn Berry (Linden Lanes), who also sits on the Keystone Centre board, said that it was no secret that there are areas of the Keystone Centre that need to be fixed and this allows the city to spend "33-cent dollars" to help solve those problems.
"We won’t tackle everything we want to do with this and there is a long list of things that need to be taken care of," Berry said.
Coun. Len Isleifson (Riverview) said the request was being made based on each level of government contributing one-third of the costs, yet referred to an August letter sent to Keystone Centre general manager Neil Thomson in which Manitoba Local Government Minister Ron Lemieux confirmed the province was contributing $790,972.85, conditional on local and federal matching funds. However, Lemieux requested that the contribution be kept confidential and to "refrain from discussing it with outside parties." Isleifson asked why the provincial contribution didn’t match what the city was putting forward. City manager Scott Hildebrand noted that the difference was made up by another provincial government contribution.
The measure was approved with a 9-1 majority, with only Coun. Jeff Fawcett (Assiniboine) opposing the expenditure. Coun. Jim McCrae (Meadows) was not present at the meeting.
"Before we spend 33-cent dollars, we need to know we have 33 cents," Fawcett said.
Fawcett said his opposition was on principle, knowing that the funding motion would pass anyway.
"I want to hold to the fire with the upcoming budget," Fawcett said.
"The Keystone Centre is a major piece of our city and we need to support it, but we got surprised with a lot in last year’s budget. We know those surprises better this year and the bottom line is that we’ll either be paying people or building stuff. I want people to remember that in our budget discussions."
Coun. Murray Blight (Victoria) said there were dangers to waiting to spend money on repairs.
"I think of the word ‘procrastinate,’" Blight said. "If this has been brought to our attention for some time, then we are the landlords with the province. We have right now the availability to get some money by a deadline date. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this one out. We need to find the money in this coming budget. We are taking risk that roof in some places needs to be fixed. Parts of that facility are not being utilized so we have to find it."
Rice had one caveat about the funding request.
"The other levels of government will get PST and GST on the capital spending," Rice said.
Rice noted that 33-cent dollars have a greater impact on the city’s budget than it would for on federal or provincial budgets, adding that for every tax dollar collected, the federal government receives 50 cents, while the province gets 42 cents and the municipal government gets eight cents.
For that reason, Rice has had a problem with municipalities being asked to kick in the same in a cost share with less money available to them, and only property taxes as a means to raise that cash.
"We need a secure funding arrangement for that facility, just like the Westman Centennial Auditorium has or the convention centre has in Winnipeg," Rice said. "We need the two levels of government to agree to cover the deficits. The other centres can carry a deficit. The Keystone can’t."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 16, 2012