Criminal record check fees rise

New and increased fees for criminal record checks are a concern for some local organizations that rely heavily on volunteers and a tight budget.

Organizations that rely on

volunteers express concern

New and increased fees for criminal record checks are a concern for some local organizations that rely heavily on volunteers and a tight budget.

Along with checks for employees now costing $50 instead of $30, what used to be free for volunteers and students will now cost $20 as of this month.

“We’re really not in this to make any money,” said Helen Kassian, coordinator of Meals on Wheels. “As a non-profit organization, we’ll have to raise even more money to cover these expenses.”

About 25 volunteers are involved in delivering meals, prepared at Rose Wood Village, to local seniors who generally just got out of the hospital and can’t cook for themselves.

Though Interior Health funds Meals on Wheels, it is run by the volunteer-based Salvation Army.

Kassian wonders how the organization will fare during its busiest season — Christmas — when up to 70 volunteers are stationed at prime locations throughout

the city collecting funds for family hampers, one of many of its seasonal initiatives.

Trish Milne, executive director of Trail and District United Way, hasn’t budgeted for the new fees brought in by the Kootenay Boundary regional RCMP detachment and said volunteers will have to pay out of their own pockets.

“I support the need for criminal record checks but it’s definitely going to have an impact on organizations like ours,” she said. “I don’t think it’s going to make us close our doors but it will have some impact.”

The United Way collects donations from the community and then gives back a minimum of 70 per cent of its profits, using the remaining funds to cover its operations – last year, $25,000 looked after rent, utilities, advertising, part-time staff and campaign supplies.

“Because we have such limited resources within the budget, we rely heavily on the support of local businesses and organizations,” said Milne, noting examples like Interior Signs, Hall Printing and Kootenay Savings Credit Union among others.

There are eight volunteers on the United Way’s board as well as a number of other people who help with community initiatives.

Since Milne started at the United Way a couple years ago, she has requested eight mandatory criminal record checks.

“It’s important to make sure that individuals out there representing the United Way are who they say they are,” she said.

But Milne is concerned that the $20 price tag will discourage people with barriers who turn to the organization for work experience.

Smokies president Tom Gawryletz said the increased fees won’t hurt the Trail hockey team too much, as checks are only done when a new coach is hired, which doesn’t happen too often, with the exception of a new assistant coach last year.

“Sure it’s more money, don’t get me wrong, but for the amount that we do, it won’t impact us,” he said.

Criminal record checks on people offering to billet the players were not established in the past and have not been made mandatory because many are long-time supporters and Gawryletz knows their history.

“If you’re in a small town and you have a problem, everyone knows about it,” he said.

Volunteers don’t handle money, and a record check hasn’t been made a priority for board members either, who are all long-time friends.

“When you’re in a community this small, some of these little things are thrown to the wayside,” he said. “If we don’t have trust before the checks, we’re not going to have it after.”

Several years ago, the RCMP and City of Trail came to an agreement that fees charged for criminal record checks in Greater Trail would be used to fund a support position to complete the checks.

With the number of requests growing, the fees had to be increased this month to ensure the long-term sustainability of this position, according to RCMP Insp. Nick Romanchuk of the regional detachment.

“The number of organizations requiring these checks from their volunteers, employees and potential employees has grown astronomically over the past several years,” he said in a news release. “The demands placed on police and police resources to complete these checks . . . has reached a point where current police resources are unable to meet those demands.”