Full support was given by city council to a new city policy regarding letters of support coming from City Hall.
The city has formally adopted a policy in order to streamline how requests for letters of support are dealt with in council chambers, and the first line of request is city staff.
The City of Nelson frequently receives requests for letters of support from various non-profit and community organizations, noted city manager Kevin Cormack in council chambers Monday night during city council’s regular meeting.
“The requests usually seek a simple statement that the city supports the organization or the project at issue,” he said. “The letter is normally given to the organization requesting the letter to be used as part of a grant or funding application.”
However, often the letter comes to the city’s doorstep just prior to the deadline on which the requester needs to have the letter. This has put the city in a difficult position since the request has to come to council in one of its meetings that take place every two weeks.
Establishing a policy will allow city staff to “quickly and efficiently process routine requests for letters of support” without approval of city council, wrote city deputy corporate officer Gabriel Bouvet in his report to council.
“It would also provide staff with more flexibility in accommodating last minute requests.”
Bouvet said, on average, the agenda for a council meeting might include up to four letters of support, with city staff having to draft the letter in the aftermath were the support improved, forwarding to the appropriate organization.
Coun. Keith Page wondered if, under the policy, council would see all letters of request, whether they were approved or denied. Cormack explained that the policy required all of the letters to still come to council for review, but not for decision.
Ultimately, a copy of letters that were processed would then be included on council’sregular meeting agendas as part of the council information items requests for decision.
“Letters requesting any in-kind or financial assistance would still require a council decision and would not be handled per the proposed policy,” said Bouvet in his report to council.
Cormack said city staff proposed asking that it be given the discretion to provide letters of support on behalf of council to non-profit community organizations “that are requesting such letters and are also not requesting any in-kind or financial assistance from the city.”
Coun. Jesse Woodward wondered if city staff might be placed in a compromising position on some of the letter requests.
“There is something to be considered here about how much … is being put on staff to make decisions rather than council,” he said.
But there are built in checks and balances with the nature of the letter of support requests, replied Cormack.
“We are not talking about letters of support regarding someone’s position, we are talking strictly grant and funding and applications,” he said.
The majority of the time the letter requests would be straightforward, Woodward agreed, and it should not cause a concern on council.
“I think it’s important to have this policy around letters of support, otherwise it just doesn’t work very well,” said Mayor John Dooley.
Council authorizes staff to provide letters of support to local non-profit organizations and other local governments who request such letters to include along with their grant or funding applications if the following criteria are satisfied:
- there is no financial contribution requested from the city; and
- there is no in-kind contribution (facility space or staff time) requested from the city; and
- the letter is not sought in connection with a grant or other opportunity that is also being applied for by the City of Nelson.
To provide efficiency in responding to requests received from local non-profit organizations and other local governments for letters of support for grants and funding applications.
All request for letters of support shall be submitted to the corporate officer or designate for processing. If the request for a letter of support satisfies the required criteria, staff will prepare the letter and it shall be signed by the mayor, acting mayor or city manager.
A copy of letters that are processed by staff shall be placed on council’sregular meeting agendas as part of the council information items request for decision.
— Source: City of Nelson