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City Council rejects request for $20,000 toward Civic Arena mural

Bill Metcalfe
By Bill Metcalfe
May 6th, 2014

At the May 5 meeting of Nelson City Council, not far into a discussion about whether to grant the Nelson Regional Sports Council $20,000 toward its $100,000 mural, Councillor Deb Kozak asked Mayor John Dooley to temporarily step down from the chair because, she said, in this meeting and at a previous meeting on April 21, Mayor Dooley had been so passionately in favour of funding the mural.

When Mayor Dooley replied that this was not necessary, Councillor Kozak said, “Then I would ask that you not get into a debate with each councillor who speaks, or I will challenge the chair.”


This year the Nelson Sports Council applied for a Community Initiative Program (CIP) grant of $30,000 toward the creation of a large mural on the sides of the Civic Arena facing the Community Complex and Hall Street. To read a previous story in The Nelson Daily about that granting process, click here and note the document attached at the bottom of that story.

CIP funding is not city money. It comes from the Columbia Basin Trust and is allocated by municipal governments within their communities.

An arts jury vetted the submissions in the arts category of the Nelson CIP grant proposals and made recommendations to council as to how much to award to which projects.

That jury recommended no funding to the mural because such an expensive project would drain the available funds for many smaller applications for other groups.

However, at the April 21 meeting at which council decided on the grants, Mayor Dooley said council should over-ride the arts jury and award the Sports Council the full $30,000 requested. He and Councillors Robin Cherbo and Bob Adams argued strenuously that anything less would not get the project off the ground. After some debate, council awarded the Sports Council $10,000.

(There was no discussion at the time that the full cost of the mural was projected by the Sports Council to be $100,000 and that the group will be looking for funding elsewhere as well.)

Much of the high cost of the project is for scaffold rental.

After deciding to allocate the $10,000 of CIP funding from the Columbia Basin Trust to the mural, council passed a motion, at the urging of Mayor Dooley, to ask staff to find ways the city could financially contribute further to the mural.

In the meantime, the city’s Cultural Development Committee (CDC), which has been given the job of making the final artistic decision about who will do the mural, has received proposals from artists and has narrowed those down to three contenders.

Back to the May 5 meeting

City staff came to council’s May 5 meeting with a recommendation that council give $20,000 to the mural from a city reserve fund set aside for special projects.

Some council members did not appear to be aware of the existence of this reserve fund and Chief Financial Officer Colin McClure had to explain it. He said it is part of a city fund set aside for special projects.

Councillor Kozak moved that the mural not be funded because it was too much money for one project and the mural was not important enough to warrant such a large grant that had not been budgeted and discussed in advance.

Councillor Kiss agreed, saying council does not have enough information about what the plans for the mural are, and that “when we asked staff to look into this, it was too rushed. This is a huge project.”

Councillor Kiss said the project was not envisioned in the planning for Hall Street and that the Civic Arena is “not an eyesore, it is just a white building. I am very uncomfortable with ponying up so much taxpayer money of this project. There are other things we could be doing with that money as far as public art projects go.”

Councillors Adams and Cherbo spoke in favour of the $20,000 grant, Councillor Adams arguing that the $10,000 granted through the CIP process on its own “won’t get the project off the ground.”

Councillor Kiss responded that the allocation of $10,000 of CIP money did not somehow oblige council to now come up with more. She said it is the Sports Council’s job to find funding for the project. 

There was some debate, initiated by Councillor Donna Macdonald, about the lack of clarity in this process, and she questioned the amounts of money involved.

“Having spent all day Wednesday at a poverty reduction workshop, I am struggling with supporting an $100,000 mural,” she said.

Councillor Kozak agreed and said, “What other projects does council have where this money could be used?  If we have $20,000 floating out there, there might be other places we could use it and we should discuss that.”

Throughout, Mayor Dooley occasionally briefly deviated from his role as chair and argued in favour of granting the mural $20,000, with the support of Councillors Cherbo and Adams, on the basis that there was no point in their award of $10,000 from the CIP program in April if more money was not granted now because $10,000 was not enough.

Kozak’s motion to reject granting the funding was passed with Councillors Batycki, Kozak, Macdonald, and Kiss supporting it. 

Then Councillor Macdonald proposed a new motion, which passed. Her motion reads:

“That Council request that the CDC meet with the three civic centre mural proponents to review the 3 proposed projects with a view to identifying options regarding timing, cost, and local benefits, and further that the recommendations from the CDC come to council.”


Bill Metcalfe is a freelance journalist who covers Nelson City Hall for The Nelson Daily. If you would like to receive a twice-monthly email with links to his recent city hall stories, send a request to


Categories: GeneralPolitics