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Council wants encore from Tourism Jasper on stage

by Craig Gilbert | publisher@fitzhugh.ca

 

Jasper councillors want to hear more about Tourism Jasper’s proposal for an open-air stage on the exchange lands before they sign on any dotted lines, in principle or otherwise.

James Jackson, TJ executive director, told council in March CN Rail and other partners had come up with $600,000 of the nearly $800,000 the stage is projected to cost.

He said he was there hat in hand asking for a commitment of support for the project in principle with no money attached.

Town CAO Mark Fercho said on April 3 the implication then that the town would chip in the remaining $200,000 is gelling into a possibility. He called it the “worst case scenario.”

With more than 50 per cent of the project cost already funded, it would make a good case for grant proposals from upper levels of government that the town hasn’t explored in detail yet.

“There are a lot of those that haven’t even been tapped yet,” he said. “In the worst case scenario, we wouldn’t find any money and that would become part of the capital plan.”

Jackson wasn’t there for Tuesday’s discussion. Reached by phone in Banff, he said on Wednesday he wouldn’t comment on questions posed in a meeting he didn’t attend.

A town report estimates a permanent outdoor stage on the exchange lands would cost about $3,000 to maintain per year, and that portable stages cost between $1,000 and $5,000 per event, including transport.

It says the structure, which includes steel with anti-graffiti coating and wood protected from exposure to UV and water damage, could be expected to last 25 to 30 years.

“Stage and field rental rates could be determined to cover costs of annual maintenance based on an average number of events per year, along with some savings for future replacement.”

Coun. Paul Butler drew out the distinction between asking for a letter of support and a funding commitment.

“My discomfort is with being asked to do this with a sense of urgency that the source money could dry up,” Butler said, pointing out it came to light shortly after council set the 2018 budget. “This must have been in the works for quite some time. I don’t like the feeling of being pressured to make a decision.”

Fercho said it would have been premature to bring the stage up during the budget process.

“The open-endedness of it allows us to discuss it in a future budget year.”

Mayor Richard Ireland sought clarity on the request.

“I want to be clear because there’s a difference between saying ‘we support in principle a community stage’ and saying ‘we support in principle a community stage to which we will contribute $200,000 whether from municipal funds or grant funds,” he said.

Fercho responded that was “implied,” and that discussion with TJ so far pointed to that agency working with the town to seek grants from other sources.

“They have the expertise in some of the areas to convince the grant funders of the opportunities of having those celebrations in Jasper and all of the good things that come with that,” he said.

Ireland asked about the chance of having better information about potential funding before council’s next meeting on April 17.

Fercho said it’s hard to project how successful the town will be in attracting funding until it first selects which grants could apply to the project, then the process of filling out applications begins. And even then, a stellar application could end up being third-best of 50 and lose out because only two grants were available.

“By the commitment to having a stage but not nailing down a due date of say next year, it allows us a little more freedom to really seek grant funding,” he said, “similar to what we’ve done with our own Bonhomme infrastructure program. We have everything ready, we’re just waiting for the time when we get the partner funding to make it happen.”

 

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