City error complicates sister city celebrations

An error by City of Campbell River staff led the Twinning Committee to believe it had more money to work with than it actually did

A mistake by the city is threatening plans made by the Campbell River Twinning Society for delegates coming to visit from Ishikari in less than two weeks.

City staff told the Twinning Society Committee it had more money to work with than the city actually does.

City Manager Andy Laidlaw broke the news to three members of the committee who were in attendance at last week’s Tuesday council meeting.

“I just wanted to apologize to the delegation about some information that may have been provided to them by staff,” Laidlaw began. “We indicated there was $62,000 in the account for Ishikari. In fact there is $62,000 in the reserve account for twinning and $25,000 of that is from money we received from the province of British Columbia to initiate a sister city with China. So if council wishes to go with the full $62,000 we would be required to pay the money back to ourselves in next year’s budget.”

In other words, nearly half of the money the Twinning Committee was told it had to plan a 30th anniversary celebration of the sister city relationship is actually earmarked for the city to establish a sister city bond with a community in China. That extra $25,000 could still be used to fund the delegates’ visit from Ishikari, Japan at the end of the month, but council would have to pay the money back next year as the province will want any unspent money returned. The Twinning Committee suggested council give the committee the full amount it has based its budget on – $60,000 for things such as a gift to the Ishikari delegates, business tours, a video presentation, translators, an events coordinator, and pipe band ambassadors.

Mary Ashley, a member of the planning committee, said it would be a challenge to change the budget so late in the process.

“It would be extremely difficult for us, I would say, based on previous experience, to cut back,” Ashley said. “I don’t imagine we could manage this whole process on $37,000 based on what we’ve done previously.”

Colleen Evans, also a member of the planning committee, said time is of the essence and if the dollar amount that’s available changes, it would have to go back to the committee for a modified budget.

Coun. Claire Moglove said she couldn’t support taking money that’s not really there.

“An error appears to have been made,” she said. “I don’t believe in spending money we don’t have. The fact of the matter is, council didn’t put money aside over the last five years for this. Perhaps we should have. I would absolutely want to put money aside going forward.”

Moglove made a motion to give the committee $37,000 – the amount in the reserve not including the $25,000 grant from the province. That motion passed with Mayor Walter Jakeway and Coun. Ron Kerr opposed. The delegates will be in Campbell River for the Canada Day celebrations.