WACA Requests Fee Waiver
A local cultural group hoping to hold a community wide celebration came to Council looking for a fee waiver but despite getting it left with unanswered questions.
Lori Deets, president of the Wakamow Aboriginal Community Association (WACA), came to Council to request the rental fees of $445.69 for city land for a six day pow wow as well as other events be waived as well as to ask questions. Questions which Deets was not allowed to ask.
In his verbal report to Council city manager Jim Puffalt said Administration favoured waving the fees.
“This is somewhat of a unique situation in that this is a community wide celebration and I think Parks and Recreation when we looked at the fees we weren’t sure how to charge or what to charge. What it came down to the best option for Council would be to waive the fees,” Puffalt stated.
The city manager would go on to state the event fit into the Calls To Action For National Reconciliation.
The 94 “Calls to Action” grew out of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission whose published report into the treatment of Metis and First nations children in the residential school system urged all levels of government — federal, provincial, territorial and aboriginal — to work together to change policies and programs in a concerted effort to repair the harm caused by residential schools and move forward with reconciliation.
In her short address to Council Deets said she was there to ask for the fees to be waived for the pow wow. Fees she said WACA believed were already waived.
“I am here to speak to the waiver of the fee. We started communication with Parks and Recreation and we had gone through this contract and we had the understanding that there would be no fees to this and then we found out on May 27th (there would be),” Deets told Council.
“I guess I am a little bit confused on how to go forward as we were told there would be no charge and then told that Council decided there would be charge. And I am confused on how we ended up in that place and I would like some clarification of that,” Deets asked in her address to Council.
Councillor Chris Warren told Deets under the process she was not allowed to ask questions of Council.
“The report does speak to the process, so typically for City facilities there is a fee to it. And the fee is the same fee we charge to the Happy Valley Park,” Warren stated.
Deets said she saw the partnership derived with Parks and Recreation as part of the overall process of reconciliation.
“We went into this partnership it was going to be a move towards reconciliation. And even though I understand you guys have fees and try to keep things equal I feel this is a move towards reconciliation…we need to have an understanding of what all those calls to action mean and waving these fees is one of those calls of action.”
In questioning from Mayor Fraser Tolmie about emergency services for the event - most specifically fire services - parks and recreation director Derek Blais said the City had cut the grass in the parking area as well as there would be a designated smoking area in order to reduce the fire hazard. Blais ssaid additionally the group had purchased the appropriate insurance as requested for the event.
Councillor Scott McMann said he could support the fee waiver for this year.
“I think with the short notice and they weren’t aware there was going to be a fee I’m willing to support the recommendation it gets waved this year,” Councillor McMann said going on to add “in the future we need to set some fee for the rental of this park. Events in the future will know what those fees will be.”
Councillor Crystal Froese said it was a “city wide community event” in which the City had partnered with WACA.
“The park sign unveiling is going to be happening this day. And a lot of exciting things happening around this,” Councillor Froese stated.
“It is important for us to be in partnership with Wakamow Association on things like this as well.”
Councillor Brian Swanson however opposed extending the free rent past the day of the formal renaming of the Wild Animal Park as well as the precendent it set.
“One day is dedicated to the formal renaming of the park and Council voted to do that and I could support the fees (waived) for that but this is a seven day event…I cannot see how that would be any different than Motif and Happy Valley when we charge for that park because we incur expenses for doing these things,” Councillor Swanson stated.
In questioning from Councillor Swanson about when the event started its planning Blais said it was shortly after the City agreed to rename the Wild Animal Park to Tatawaw Park on April 9th.
“(There was) no fee set in place so we did bring it up at strategic planning with Council and we were advised to set the fees the same as Happy Valley and that was the approach we took,” Blais said.
A Strategic Planning Session is where Council meets with Administration in-camera and behind closed doors to discuss things in private. No minutes, no notes and no agenda is published and all attendees are not to reveal what was discussed at the planning session.
Councillor Swanson said he did not support the request due to the large number of community wide events occuring and many would then approach Council for similar treatment.
“I would be in favour of waving the fee for the park renaming it is a City initiative but I do feel every other organization…we have costs…to trim the grass and other costs to maintain the area.”
Councillor Dawn Luhning said she struggled over the request for the fee waiver because of the number of events out there and the costs the City incurs.
“This is a tough one for me because it is put forward as a community wide event absolutely it is, but as Councillor Swansoon has indicated there are hundreds of them that are community wide events and we do have costs for this,” Councillor Luhining stated.
An amendment to the motion was proposed to make it a one time fee waiver only which Councillor Froese opposed because it was a blanket statement and may well mean Council will not be able to hear from groups in the future making similar requests.
Councillor Dawn Luhning said “there are costs involved Councillor Froese for these parks to be utilized for these events and community organizations.”
She use Moose Jawg as an example of how her event paid $1000 to the Wakamow Valley Authority and if those fees were waived they could add more money to Moose Jaw Health Foundation.
“Stating that argument we have to level the playing field to a degree I believe this opens up and set a precedent of waiving a fee for using a facility for an event other community organizations aren’t asking for or don’t ask for because they understand.”
In the end the amendment carried to make the fee waiver a one-time thing and the main motion to waive the fees for 2019 was approved.