Tourism White Rock has been dealt another financial blow, with a decision by the city’s business improvement association to axe its support for a return of the free summer trolley.
The move is a $20,000 hit that some officials say was unexpected. It follows a similar-sized cut to base funding for the tourism group that was made by the BIA last fall.
“I was really shocked,” Coun. Al Campbell said Monday of the recent decision, after the issue was raised by Coun. Helen Fathers.
But BIA president Lynne Sinclair said the news should not have come as a surprise.
“We made it clear this year all along that we expected them to solicit funding from the city and funding from corporate sponsorships as well because we didn’t want to pay a disproportionate amount,” Sinclair told Peace Arch News Tuesday. “We communicated the decision of the board with the factors contained in it a couple of weeks ago.”
Fathers told council she heard of the funding shortfall over the weekend and asked prior to the meeting to add the issue to the agenda.
Council members criticized the BIA’s move, then voted unanimously to fill the gap from a reserve fund.
Campbell – council’s liaison to the tourism group – told PAN that Tourism White Rock needs $38,000-$40,000 to run the trolley for the summer, with weekend service to begin in July. He said officials believed a handshake earlier this year had ensured the continued partnership.
“We came to an agreement and we left the room,” he said. “We thought it came across pretty clearly that they liked the (trolley) idea.”
However, nothing was put in writing, according to TWR executive director Betina Albornoz.
“The BIA had expressed interest in supporting the trolley at a joint meeting,” Albornoz told PAN, explaining details were to be worked out.
“We said we were interested in pursuing the trolley, but there was a number of things that had to be worked out first,” she said.
“That’s all that was ever said. We made it really clear that there were a number of things that bothered us about last time.”
Sinclair – a former White Rock councillor – cited a lack of promised advertising for BIA members inside the trolley and minimal credit for BIA support as among deciding factors.
“Most people didn’t know the BIA was even funding it,” she said of the pilot run.
Sinclair said a requested analysis of the trolley’s inaugural season was not done; the BIA received complaints that the trolley took too long to do its loop; and passengers took up parking at Central Plaza, impacting businesses.
Albornoz said by email Tuesday only that “we are focusing on the task at hand and simply thrilled that this project is happening.
“Our stance with the BIA, and all of our community partners, has always been one of open camaraderie and mutual communication. We respect any decisions that these community partners deem they feel necessary to make.”
Last fall, when the first cut was confirmed, BIA officials said it was about fiscal responsibility.
Wednesday, Sinclair said fiscal responsibility continues to factor, announcing that the BIA board voted the evening before to contribute up to $6,000 to the trolley initiative.
“We’re happy to make up the ($6,000) shortfall. Very pleased to be able to contribute a much more appropriate amount for us.”