Pemberton council moved some money around at its meeting on Tuesday, July 8, to pay off some unanticipated costs for the Downtown Community Barn, while also looking to establish a non-profit society to look after the building's operations.
It's been several weeks since the structure went up, but the Pemberton Farmers' Market is so far the only group to use the space, despite low rental costs. Charity and community groups can book the facility for just $5, while commercial and corporate users pay $50. Renters also need to put up a $300 deposit.
Councillor Mike Richman said he's heard some "quiet critics" disappointed that the barn has been virtually unused since its construction. However, the Village of Pemberton has no resources to promote or program the facility, so council supported a staff recommendation to explore the idea of turning the barn's management over to a new, registered non-profit comprised of local stakeholder groups.
Manager of development services Caroline Lamont used the Stewardship Pemberton Society as a local, model example of how a non-profit can successfully administer programming, pointing to its work at the One Mile Lake Nature Centre.
"The nature centre has tripled its funding through innovative approaches," said Lamont. "We think that with a non-profit, and with the community interest behind (the barn), there is a real opportunity there."
Lamont added that she has met with Stewardship Pemberton's Dawn Johnson to explore the concept.
Barn usage is currently governed by the village's park-use bylaw, but a new group overseeing the building's operations would likely set parameters on fees, and what types of events would be permitted.
Lamont also noted that there is about $15,000 worth of work remaining to complete the building, citing the U.S. exchange rate as a major source of the budget overrun. Village staff are hopeful that outside funding sources can cover those costs later this year.
However, council indicated its desire to get the work finished as soon as possible, and supported Councillor Ted Craddock's motion to use the remaining balance of the Community Opportunity and Initiative Fund (COIF) to "backstop" the project, and replenish the fund if other money comes through.
"We've got an icon for the community that's sitting there that we should be finishing," said Craddock. "I don't think anybody would be upset if we used that funding to get this barn finished."
The COIF balance sits just shy of $11,000, and no further applications for money from that pool will be considered until the fall. Landscaping, lighting, site grading and the installation of a retaining wall and recognition plaques are among the items of work still needing completion.
The village has an application in for a $25,000 grant from Farm Credit Canada (FCC). Lamont said the FCC has turned down Pemberton's bids for grant funding on other projects in the past, but that staff likes its chances this time because FCC approached the village directly, asking it to apply.
The Pemberton Music Festival fund, which will be created by a $3-per-ticket contribution from next week's event, is another possible funding source, though the decision-making process on how to spend that money hasn't been finalized. Acting mayor James Linklater also noted that the barn could be eligible for funding through a recognition award administered by the Lower Mainland Local Government Association.
The village will also apply to have the barn recognized in the Partnerships category of the Union of B.C. Municipalities Excellence Awards, although that honour has no monetary component to it.
The barn will be officially opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday, July 16 at 4:30 p.m.