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Grant for Navy League sparks angry debate at Belleville city council

Belleville city council discussed if it was possible to grant the Navy League $48,354.15 for a new dock Monday afternoon. Photo by Evan Doherty, QNet News

By Evan Doherty [1]

BELLEVILLE – A grant request for the Navy League of Canada [2] to fund a new dock caused a debate at Belleville’s city council meeting Monday.

The group was asking for $48,354.15 to rebuild a dock at their Belleville headquarters on South Front Street after their previous one was destroyed by high water levels in 2017.

The group’s request was over $10,000 limit set by the grant committee.

There were some on council who were empathetic during the debate.

Councillor Pat Culhane suggested that their grant could be funded by another committee of council such as the social infrastructure committee.

“It did not meet the application criteria for the grant committee. I would like to move that this request be redirected to the social infrastructure fund and if it doesn’t meet the social infrastructure fund criteria that it go forward to discussion,” Culhane said.

There were disagreements about the amount of funding that was suggested by the Navy League that took on an angry and frustrated tone.

Coun. Chris Malette said he didn’t agree with Culhane about the need for the nearly $50,000 request.

“I’m going to simply stress that I can’t support $48,000, $50,000 as much I believe that the Navy League certainly does a fabulous job with the youth. I don’t think that Coun. Culhane’s ‘I think they get the discipline that they don’t get at home or at school,’ I think is a bit of a broad stroke. That’s my opinion,” Malette said.

The city’s grant fund account has less than $75,000 remaining, he said.

Malette also argued the league could still be given the money, but in a lesser amount. He also said the group doesn’t fit under the social infrastructure fund, as Culhane suggested. He said that other groups might start asking for money from the social infrastructure fund as well.

“I could foresee a time that the yacht club that runs programs for youth comes to us with an outstretched hand saying they need 50, 60, $80,000,” Malette said.

The Navy League of Canada has been in the area for over 100 years. Coun. Bill Sandison spoke about how the group’s history of working with council.

“The Belleville Sea Cadets [3] have been in the area since 1928. No pun intended they are an anchor institution in our community. I asked the finance department over the last 10 years how much money we’ve provided to them in the form of assistance and the answer was zero,” Sandison said.

Coun. Paul Carr, the head of the grant committee, said that the last year they granted $189,000 and they were given out in the amounts of between $3,000 and $5,000. He said it was difficult to meet all the needs of the community when there isn’t enough funding.

“When we talk about using the funds for an upgrade on a dock, I’m not trying to take away from what their need is. It’s a balancing act to try and meet all the needs of the community,” he said.

Council discussed the matter further and debated over multiple amounts of funding to give to the Navy League. Motions for both $25,000 and $20,000 were made as well, but neither passed. Council passed the matter onto the finance department to see if there are funds to help support the project.