Service agreements to be reviewed by finance committee

Chamber of commerce and tourism association agreements in the spotlight

Tempers flared at the District of Sooke council meeting on Monday night in regard to council making the decision to look at the service agreements between the Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce and the Sooke Region Tourism Association.

Currently the chamber of commerce receives $28,150 from the district budget and the tourism association  receives $20,000.

Mayor Wendal Milne said he wanted to ensure that all of the grants handed out by the district were treated the same way.

“We want to make clear, well in advance, that here are the requirements,” he said. He stated that some of the agreements were five-years in length while others were year-by-year.

He said the district wants to provide sustainable funding while keeping the entire budget in mind.

The Finance and Administration Committee has, since the election, been reviewing all of the contracts the district is party to.

Rick Kasper, chair of the Finance and Administration Committee felt there were items in the service  agreement (Schedule A) with the chamber that were strictly for the benefit of the members and not the entire business community. He stated that when they first signed a service agreement with the chamber it was for a one-half time operation. The fee for service was established when the chamber operation became full-time.

He said he would support the agreement for this year only and the conditions would be looked at seriously.

In regard to the Sooke Region Tourism Association Kasper stated that perhaps the District of Sooke should not be the only partner and the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area, which benefits from the association’s efforts, should be a contributing partner as well.

Councillor Maja Tait said the chamber does many things which benefit the entire community, such as the Santa Parade, Communities in Bloom and the light-up at Christmas. She said these were measureable outcomes.

Chamber manager Kari Osselton took offense at Kasper’s comments and asked, “If we’re not doing these things, who would be?”

Mayor Milne said the onus was on the district to establish what they want as far as agreements go.

An angry Frederique Philip accused Kasper of lying and took the podium at the Committee of the Whole portion to outline how she has helped promote tourism and business in Sooke.

“You don’t seem to understand what tourism does,” she said to Kasper.

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