Rivercorp is returning thousands of dollars to the city after it failed to deliver on what the money was supposed to be used for.
The economic development corporation was tasked with helping to revitalize the downtown core with its Aggressive Downtown Marketing and Promotion Strategy and $43,000 in city money but city council and Rivercorp itself said the plan will not effect any major changes downtown the way it’s currently designed.
“This strategy will not result in any long-term impact on the revitalization of the downtown core,” admitted Ben Chalmers, chair of Rivercorp.
Rivercorp has already spent some of the money it was allotted but Coun. Ziggy Stewart said he wanted the remaining balance of $41,000 returned to the city.
“Everybody here on council knows the financial problems facing the city for the next few years,” said Stewart at Tuesday’s council meeting. “Based on our financial restrictions this is just not the thing to do and I think we should take the money back.”
Council originally approved the funds be spent on display banners, high resolution photos, web-based marketing, contract ads, travel expense to trade shows, community and industry familiarization tours and event sponsorship.
Chalmers said that strategy “was presented to council by the former CEO (of Rivercorp) without the prior approval of the existing board of directors or without consultation with affected stakeholders.”
Coun. Roy Grant agreed with Chalmers that the original strategy will not benefit the downtown core in the long run.
“There’s many components of the strategy that I don’t agree with and I think it’s not money well spent,” said Grant, who encouraged Rivercorp to come back with a new report.
Chalmers said Rivercorp could reformat the plan, with downtown stakeholder involvement, but it could take up to a month, which would be too late for this year’s budget process.
As part of the Sustainable Official Community Plan, Rivercorp is required to draft a Market Assessment Report. A reformatted plan would have to wait until the Market Assessment Report, which is being done by a consulting firm, has been completed.
All councillors, with the exception of Coun. Andy Adams, voted to have Rivercorp return the funding.
Adams noted downtown revitalization has been a strategic goal of council’s for “quite some time” and investing in the downtown core could lead to projects and investment that could benefit the city economically.
Stewart said he’d like to see a rejuvenated, bustling downtown core but added downtown merchants should take some of the responsibility in making the area attractive to potential investors, instead of the city and Rivercorp shouldering the entire burden.
“There comes a time when the owners have to carry the ball,” said Stewart.