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City to discontinue funding for Volunteer Airdrie

Airdrie City Council Briefs:

By: Matt Durnan

  |  Posted: Thursday, Apr 10, 2014 11:38 am

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City council scrapped one item from its 2015 budget deliberations as aldermen voted in favour of discontinuing funding for Volunteer Airdrie on April 7 during a regular meeting of council.

The organization’s funding comes through Family and Community Support Services (FCSS), which was allocated $759,000 this year to support preventative social programs, $44,000 of which was given to Volunteer Airdrie.

The decision to set aside $44,000 for Volunteer Airdrie out of the FCSS funding on Dec. 16, 2013 was deliberated at length, as City staff and council wrestled with the organization’s merit because its main role is to train and assign volunteers, making it difficult to quantify their role in preventative social programs.

FCSS Director Clay Aragon appeared before council on April 7 to present future funding options for the organization.

Options included discontinuing of funding in 2015, keeping the status quo funding model and exploring new funding models, with Aragon recommending council vote to discontinue funding.

Aragon made comparisons to volunteer organizations similar to Volunteer Airdrie in cities like Red Deer, Camrose and Medicine Hat. None of these municipalities fund volunteer organizations.

“All of the work done by these organizations is accessible online and it negates the need for an in-class portion,” said Aragon.

Mayor Peter Brown and Alderman Allan Hunter voiced some concern over the idea of cutting funding for Volunteer Airdrie.

“It’s a bit concerning for us to discontinue their funding as I know they’re trying to rebuild,” said Brown.

“What is going to fill this void if they don’t have funding?” asked Hunter. “If people want to volunteer and participate in community groups how do they access that?”

Volunteer Airdrie Vice Chair Melanie Taylor said she and her board saw this coming but the change in funding has not caused the organization great concern.

“The City made us aware of this and we kind of knew it was coming, but this won’t affect our day-to-day operation or our mandate going forward,” said Taylor. “We know that funding for non-profit organizations is very difficult to come by and we want to thank the City for their funding for this year and in the past and we’ll continue to work to promote volunteering in Airdrie as we always have.”

Taylor, along with Chair Dave Moffatt and Volunteer Airdrie board members will meet in the coming months to determine their direction in 2015.

Aragon said volunteers are often driven by their own passion and will still find their way to different volunteer groups no matter what structure Volunteer Airdrie takes on after their FCSS funding dries up.

“Our goal at the City is to say that there are still opportunities to volunteer,” said Aragon. “We will work with the communications department to put a plan in place through our website where volunteers can access.”

Alderman Hunter was the lone vote in opposition to discontinuing funding.

Public hearing changes

Airdrie City council voted unanimously in favour of a new public hearing process during council meetings.

At all future meetings, any bylaw that requires a public hearing will now go directly to that stage, rather than having council vote on first reading at a separate meeting.

The decision, according to Sharon Pollyck, manager of Legislative Services, is to clarify that first reading is merely procedural.

“In the past, there have been a number of times where council has struggled with giving first reading to a bylaw just purely as procedure to get it on the floor,” said Pollyck.

“Where a lot of the concern comes from for councils across the province is that the public doesn’t understand that it’s just to get it on the floor, and council struggles with it because the public thinks council is voting for something that they may subsequently vote against.”

For City staff, they will now only have to file one report for these bylaws, and for the public and for developers they will now only need to attend one meeting rather than showing up for a first reading to ensure that the bylaw reaches a public hearing, before attending a second meeting for the public hearing itself.

All three readings of bylaws requiring a public hearing will be proposed during the same meeting. If third reading is not accepted by the majority of council, it will come back at a future meeting as a procedural matter.


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