At Tuesday’s Regular Council Meeting, council received a report from the Community Services, Programs and Initiatives Department regarding recommendations for the Community Grants budget and the recent request for $40,000 from the Regent Theatre. The motion to approve recommendations and support the Regent was ultimately passed 10-4.
It was just two weeks ago that the Alexandra Seay, Theatre Mangaer, brought forth her proposal to pivot the programming at the famed theatre along with a request for $40,034 of funding to enable them to do so.
The new, hybrid programming model would position the Regent as more of a community hub.
“A community hub is a space that provides access to the full community, I mean the County and beyond. What we’re proposing is to introduce a hybrid programming model that allows us to build our capacity through equipment and investment in expertise to enable us to live stream content,” explained Seay. “So yes we have a theatre, we will have live events and live audiences, albeit a limited audience, and to that we add the ability to live stream content and the ability to live stream to a satellite venue.”
In their report, staff recommended that the monetary request from the Regent be taken out of the Community Grants budget.
Staff also recommended that the Community Grants Program resume this fall in order to help sustain not for profits and charities that are unable to qualify for other COVID-19 related emergency grants and are finding it difficult to maintain operating costs at this time.
According to the report, staff recommended providing $68, 600 in grants for this new, one-off program.
Councillor Bill Roberts spoke to the large number of not for profits and charities in this area while noting that having these are important to maintain a healthy community.
“I support this recommendation and I would urge the board at the Regent and some of the major stakeholders to look at some kind of multi-year well structured minority private sector role in taking the Regent forward in the future. I’m concerned about the not for profits, volunteer groups and charities post-COVID-19,” expressed Roberts. “Though the mayor’s economic recovery team is in abeyance, what came through time and time again when we reached out to the charitable, non profit sector is they are headed for a really hard wall.”
Roberts added that, when speaking about healthy economic recovery, charities and not for profits are essential.
“We have roughly 17 per cent of the population of the Quinte Region and 40 per cent of charities in the region. That translates to roughly 120 not for profits and charities,” he added.
Councillor Janice Maynard put forward an amendment to the amount requested, stating she felt providing about $20,000 would be more reasonable.
“I would have been more than happy to forward their request for new equipment in the amount of $18,000, but $40,000, I am not supportive of. I don’t think we’ve really seen the effect on their overall budget and they will have lower operating costs if they’re not open,” she said.
Councillor Jamie Forrester seconded Maynard’s amendment, citing anticipated need among many community groups in the coming year.
“We have three community hubs in Picton. We have the library coming to the trough looking for more money, we have the old community hall fighting to be one of the hubs in the County-all of them at great expense to tax payers who may or may not use this,” stated Forrester. “I have some concerns with putting this sort of money forward in a difficult year where there will be many groups having difficult times.”
Councillor John Hirsch replied that, despite the large amount of the ask, the Regent is endeavouring to undergo radical change to survive such radically strange times.
“On subject of the Regent, I fully support ask for 40k. The Regent is needing to do something radically different than what they’ve ever done before. This is not the usual ask of the Regent and I agree with everybody that we’re always trying to encourage them to become self sufficient, but in this special circumstance where they need to seriously modify programming…these kinds of things are necessary so this alternative method of production can be carried out,” Hirsch asserted.
Mayor Steve Ferguson also supported the Regent’s request.
“It plays a pivotal role. I can’t imagine that place being dark. The effect that might have for Main Street and the economy of Picton, the impact it may have on people that want to invest in this community in some way shape or form, I think that’s something we have to bear in mind,” said Ferguson. “I’m supportive of their ask and I think that it’s important for us to show that support and give them this shot.”
Ultimately, Maynard’s amendment to provide half the recommended amount to the Regent lost in a vote 10-4, while the original motion was passed.