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City hears from Touchstones, Visitor Information Centre on budget matters

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
January 30th, 2018

Despite rising costs, lower seasonal visitations and an income deficit, it doesn’t mean the city’s heritage success story will turn up the ask from the city to keep operating.

The Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce’s executive director Tom Thomson asked city council — in its annual pre-budget review — for the same amount of municipal money that has funded the Visitor Information Centre since 2007.

Even with inflationary costs, the visitor centre has been operating at the same fee-for-service — $76,000 — for over 10 years but last year accrued a $26,495 deficit as it expanded its hours and seasonal operation into the shoulder seasons.

The chamber of commerce has been subsidizing the delivery of the service for several years, said Thomson.

“As a fiscally responsible organization, the chamber has been very effective in introducing operating cost efficiencies and reducing expenses, however rising costs in taxation, utilities and other business operating expenses are outside of our control,” he said in his presentation to council.

Visitor Centre traffic was heading upward in 2017 until the peak summer tourism season. Wildfires across the province kept people away as visitation was down substantially in July, August and into September.

The Nelson Visitor Centre served approximately 20,000 walk-in visitors in 2017, and an additional 3,000 visitors were looked after with roaming event tourism visitation support (on-site convention visitor information).

The work the centre did as a visitor information gateway to the area and a point of contact for the business community was not lost on Coun. Bob Adams.

“I think that we should consider moving their budget up,” he said.

The request will be considered by city council as it continues its budget discussions and deliberations over the next few weeks.

Touchstones Nelson steps it up

The city’s museum and art gallery is looking for a little more from one of its benefactors this year in the hope of giving its staff a break.

Executive director of Touchstones — Astrid Heyerdahl — presented the 2018 budget for city’s museum of art and history to city council, and with it was a two per cent increase request from the city’s 2015 contribution of $223,000.

The municipal contribution increase of $4,460 to $227,460 would be used to help cover an increase to Touchstone staff wages, said Heyerdahl.

In 2017 $75,000 was spent on building maintenance, fire and sprinkler systems, utilities and custodial, said Heyerdahl.

In that same year the rest of the city’s grant covered 78 per cent of the staffing salaries of the six people employed at Touchstones, she noted.

“(N)one of whom get extended health care, and three of whom do not make a Nelson living wage,” Heyerdahl said in her report to council.

The museum request will also be considered by council in the upcoming budget discussions.

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