Trail council says taking the reins for Silver City Days is a way to bring community, culture and heritage back to the annual May celebration.
The Trail Festival Society says it feels like a takeover by the city.
At Tuesday night’s meeting, festival volunteers were informed that Trail council, city staff and selected volunteers would now head the five-day event.
Coun. Sandy Santori will head a new committee structure that includes three city staff members and three not-yet-selected volunteer chairs.
“This all started when we had our strategic planning session in March,” Trail Mayor Mike Martin told the Trail Times on Wednesday. “At that point, council set a number of priorities to move forward and one of them was to have a look at community festivals.”
An internal discussion in June, solidified Trail council’s decision to revise the event’s structure.
“Highlighting the sense of community, culture and heritage is really what we are trying to capture,” he explained, clarifying no “one” theme is prevalent. “And in that regard, we see a much expanded event.”
Community organizations will continue to play a key role in the event, Martin maintains, adding, council hopes the re-structure will also renew interest and engagement with all local groups, including non-profits.
“We are going to be advertising for expressions of interest of who would like to participate in chairing these three committees,” Martin clarified. “It doesn’t stop there. The three committee chairs (for community, culture and heritage) will take on the portfolios but there will be many other volunteer roles to help put on the event we are envisioning at this point.”
Ian McLeod, a 20-year chair of the Trail Festival Society, says he thinks the city is stepping back to a time when problems first began with Silver City Days.
“That’s where things really fell apart,” he said. “So this is a tough one to swallow, let’s put it that way.”
Traditionally, the event was entirely volunteer-run, so he questions the cost now that city staff is involved.
“Why would you take a committee of people, some since the inception, and say you are not needed anymore,” said McLeod. “At this point in time, I am not sure what is going to happen until the society meets in the next two to three weeks.”
Involving city staff in organizing the spring festival will not add cost to the taxpayer, noted David Perehudoff, Trail’s chief administrative officer.
“These are all management employees who are not compensated for overtime,” he explained.
Robert Baker, deputy director for parks and recreations, Andrea Jolly, the city’s communications and events coordinator and Deputy Finance Director Rino Merlo, comprise the city’s three-person team.
“Wages are a fixed cost and staff will have to balance these new work demands with other work demands going forward,” Perehudoff added. “And there will not be an incremental cost as a result.”
He says extra costs is overly simplistic when evaluating change; an analysis needs to consider all reasons for change and what council hopes to achieve.
“Further, continuing to operate the festival under the current volunteer umbrella would be difficult to sustain,” he continued. “And in this respect, council is being proactive in terms of advancing a new approach as opposed to waiting until something went off the rails then having to react to the situation.”
The city provided a $38,725 grant to the society and spent an additional $12,750 in labour this year.
“We’ve always done well, we don’t make lot of money, but the bills were paid,” said McLeod. “One year, before I was president, we were behind – but other than that, we always came out ahead. But it wasn’t about money, it was about having the event.”