BCNE remains on Hook for Loan
Prince George, B.C. – The three requests from the Prince George Agricultural and Historical Association drew mixed response from Council but forgiving the outstanding loan was a no go.
The Association requested the City forgive the balance of an outstanding loan, which has a balance of just over $37 thousand dollars in principal and interest. They also requested the waiving of utilities and rents, and that the City provide free transit during the course of the exhibition.
Reflecting on her years as GM of the PGX, Councillor Terri McConnachie reminded her Council colleagues that the fair “Doesn’t cost the taxpayer one red cent” and explained that the reason for the loan in the first place was to pay for an out of court settlement for a lawsuit. ” It was one time assistance to help in a time of crisis.” She made it clear the money was not to cover salaries wages, or supplies, outlining that volunteers pay for everything including the toilet paper. She also noted that during her time in the GM post, the Association had applied annually for a grant from the City, and was never successful. She also reminded her colleagues that the Exhibition brings economic benefit to the City.
“Nobody wants to get into these sorts of things, we made the loan in good faith to them” said Councillor Frank Everitt. He preferred extending the loan going forward “as far as writing off the loan, that doesn’t fit in my mind.”
Councillor Albert Koehler says he has no problem forgiving $30 thousand dollars of the loan, leaving the Association on the hook for the $7 thousand dollar balance.
There was no appetite in waiving utilities and rent.
“We are being asked, unfairly in my mind, to forgive a loan they promised to pay back” said Councillor Brian Skakun “I will not support anything other than a full repayment, they owe us the money, it’s about paying the City back and leading by example.”
Councillor Murry Krause “I was one of those people at the table too, really believed that giving them the loan was the right thing. I expected to be paid back” Krause says his concern is that some other organization may come forward in the future that needs a loan, but Council will be wary of helping because of the experience with the Association.
Mayor Lyn Hall says when it comes to forgiving loans, “It is a bit of a slippery slope.” He says there is no question in his mind that the City is assisting organizations in the community with permissive tax exemptions, he noted a church recently asked the City to forgive $5 thousand dollars in taxes, and that was denied, and Council had just denied a request from the Horse Society for a break in utility rates. “I think because of the magnitude of the BCNE there needs to be a closer connection with the City.” He says there is a need to get back to the table and negotiate with the BCNE on paying the loan.
Council has approved a motion to have Administration work with the BCNE to develop a schedule for repayment of the loan. Councillors McConnachie and Koehler were opposed.
Councillor Murry Krause called for more discussion on a sustainable grant for the BCNE.