Mayor Charles Pender is seen during Monday’s council meeting.
©Diane Crocker/The Western Star
Call it sponsorship or funding for training — whatever it was, the $2,500 the City of Corner Brook provided to the fire department’s FireFit team created a bit of a stir around council chambers on Monday night.
There was no motion to be presented or decision to be made, but Coun. Tony Buckle asked to speak on the matter at the opening of the meeting and, on the agreement of council, had it added for later in the agenda.
Buckle said that in July the city received a request for $2,500 from the Triple A hockey team. The team was told it did not qualify for a grant this year and to reapply before Sept. 30 to be considered for approval under the city’s grants policy for next year.
During an Aug. 29 briefing session council discussed a request for $2,500 from the FireFit team to attend a national event that was held in Ottawa this past weekend.
Buckle said he spoke up then to say the request didn’t meet policy and the team would have to apply again for consideration for next year, the same as the hockey team.
However, during that meeting, Buckle said, city staff were told to move money from the training budget to cover the $2,500.
Buckle considers that a change in policy and said it’s not fair to the other group that was turned down.
And while he supports providing funding to the team, he said to move the money from training was not right.
“They didn’t ask for fitness programming, training, they asked for sponsorship. There’s a big difference,” Buckle said after the meeting.
“I feel that we should sponsor them, but if we’re going to do it for one group we’ve got to do it for everyone.”
He said the system has to be fair. And if the city wants to support them, it should be covered under the budget
He said he is concerned that if the $2,500 had not been taken out of the training budget it could have been used for something else to benefit the whole department.
During the meeting, Buckle was told that staff do not qualify for grants and the money would have to come out of training/professional development.
Mayor Charles Pender said the issue is part of internal budgeting and something the director of protective services has the authority to make decisions on.
Pender said that for anything that costs less than $10,000, staff can reallocate funds where necessary or it sees fit.
“It’s not council’s job to be into the operational issues of the city. Our job is to oversee, to provide the budgets to ensure money’s being allocated where it’s intended.”
In this case, Pender said, council was informed of the reallocation of funds, as is the norm, and all but one member approved it.
“Any time we can invest in the firefighters, FireFit, fitness, physical well-being it’s a solid investment. (I have) no issue with it whatsoever.”