There’s only so many ways to slice a money pie and everybody wants a piece, or two, of it.
So, what’s the best way to get a portion, in particular from Columbia Basin Trust?
In a nutshell – local government must be in the know of community priorities and look at the big picture, not individual projects.
Trail council was given that advice from Trust (CBT) leaders last week following a presentation that laid down the trust’s monetary foundation and benefit scope, then sought to answer how communities can best position themselves for successful funding applications.
“How to best position to work with us is one, engage with Kelvin Saldern, manager of community relations for this area,’ said CBT President and CEO Neil Muth. “And the second thing is a struggle we are having that I’ll share with you.”
The Trust’s increased revenue over the past few years has led to an increase in the number of projects coming before the board, Muth continued.
“This is not specific to Trail, but it tends to be larger communities who have staff who can work with us or have engaged citizenry where people are active in non profits,” he said, mentioning Rossland as an example. “Some have done pretty well out of the Trust, we need to now spend relatively more time with other communities – this is the discussion we ended up having,” Muth added. “And this is a priority over the next year because we might have to say,’No’ we’ve already put a lot of money into the community…there are a handful of communities that are doing well out of the Trust, and we need to solve this issue.”
The Trust invested $50,000 toward lighting the Victoria Street Bridge
Traditionally the Trust has described itself as having two core functions, Muth pointed out during Trail council’s July 18 governance committee meeting.
First is its investment program or money generator which is mostly driven (77 per cent) by power projects including the Waneta Expansion, the Brilliant Dam and Brilliant Dam Expansion as well as Arrow Lakes.
From those investments, which comprise $551 million from the Trust’s $720 million total asset value, comes the delivery of benefits or grant programs.
“This distinction is starting to blur a little bit,” said Muth.
Following the $141 million Waneta Expansion and a power purchase from Arrow Lakes that was reached when prices were optimal, CBT’s revenues have doubled to $55 million thereby making more money available for Basin projects.
After careful consideration, the organization’s board increased the annual Community Initiatives and Affected Area grant program by 15 per cent in 2016, (Trail’s portion was near $120,000 this year) and created new funding opportunities such as the three-year $9 million Recreation Infrastructure Grant program.
Recently, $3.5 million was approved for 42 project throughout the Basin, including $150,000 to Rossland and Beaver Valley for skate park development. (Notably, Trail is submitting a proposal into program’s second intake for construction of a skate park near Gyro Park)
While those respective community projects are more achievable with the added funding, CBT’s support methods are morphing into longer-term strategic and economic initiatives – prompting advice to Trail and other Basin leaders.
“We have just started looking at the impact investments side of things,” said Muth. “We have just entered in to set up a $2 million initial fund working with Community Futures, and credit unions can now participate,” he added. “We are just learning but we think that will be an area that will grow over time – with increased revenue but less in discretionary grant making programs and more focus on a strategic level and longer term initiatives.
“For example working in climate change or looking at affordable housing. And not just waiting for communities to come and ask for grants, helping them understand (the process).”
Muth highlighted a recent investment in “MIDAS” – the Trail-based “Fab” lab which by September will support advanced applied research in the region and beyond. With Teck Trail Operations close by, the facility is geared to provide a hands on opportunity to expand knowledge and economic opportunities in the metallurgical sector for West Kootenay companies, students and entrepreneurs.
MIDAS facility in Glenmerry
“We are not just treating everything like it’s an investment or a grant,” he continued. “Through our discussion with Community Futures in Trail and KAST (Kootenay Association of Science & Technology), we’ve supported MIDAS with more than $500,000.”
Constructed in three ways, the money was used to purchase the MIDAS building and cover some of the start up costs. Once the lab is up and running and as