More Questions Than Answers About Fundraising At Council Meeting

Pipestone Flyer

    The September 9th, meeting of Wetaskiwin City Council ended up with more questions about the status of the Aquatic Centre fundraising campaign, than answers.  Alderman Barry Hawkes opened the ‘can of worms’.

    Mayor Elliot: “Alderman Hawkes, you wanted to talk about the Memorial Fund Society?” 

      “I wanted to just address I was approached by a couple people the other day regarding the Memorial Fund Society and asked what we had sitting in the bank. I said, I don’t know. I just don’t know. I’ve been told $2 – 3 million dollars. So then upon questioning (me) further they understood I was a Director on this Board (Wetaskiwin Memorial Society).  And so I got more curious about why I haven’t been involved in any meetings.”

    The Society was created in July 15th, 1980 to administer a trust fund to be used to assist in funding the capital costs of recreation and cultural projects in the city of Wetaskiwin. In early 2012, the Society struck a committee to raise $2.75M for the Aquatic Centre. Hawkes continued, “I know I have a copy from the Wetaskiwin Memorial Society off the website that has Alderman Glen Reucker as Chairman, Secretary Treasurer, Alderman Dale Crabtree and Al Steckler as a Director, (Hawkes is also listed as a Director). So upon further investigation I have found we have not filed according to the Charities rules on what we raised and expenses….. what our expenses are according to the Societies Act.” 

    Hawkes then told Council that on September 5, 2013 as a Director of the Memorial Society, he checked with the Bank and learned there was $187,117.26 in the Wetaskiwin Memorial Society bank account. In response to Hawke’s question about why the City was claiming to have raised $2.5M when the bank account only had $187K in it, the Mayor explained that although the Memorial Fund may not have the $2.5 – $3M in the bank, they (the Memorial Fund) have signed contracts that say they (the businesses) will pay their pledges in future years. 

    The actual amounts that have been donated in cash, in-kind donations or pledges to make up the suggested $2 – $3M that is claimed to have been raised, are to be announced at a public campaign launch on November 4th.  Until then, details will not be released explained Mayor Elliot.  “We don’t want John Deere to know what Ralcomm has donated”, suggesting that revealing those numbers might jeopardize a larger donation from one, or the other.

    Hawkes then read some of the rules regarding charities regarding reporting regulations. Upon further questioning following the meeting, Hawkes disclosed that his information was from the website: 

http://www.servicealberta.gov.ab.ca/pdf/tipsheets/Charitable_Fund-raising.pdf  where the rules can be read by anyone.

    Hawkes reported the bank balance as of September 5th, 20013 was $187,117.26. The Memorial Society’s required report to the Canada Revenue Agency showed that as of December 31, 2011, the Society reported a balance of $60,620. That meant the Society raised $127K in cash in 2012. ($187K in the bank minus the $60K reported in the December 31, 2011 CRA 3010 submission) For information about the Society’s fundraising report  go to – http://www.cra arc.gc.ca/  

    So many questions and so few answers.  Two generous financial supporters of the fundraising campaign have been announced.  Thank you to Manluk Industries and Co-op Country Junction. Manluk has the naming rights to the Aquatic Centre which is the most prestigious naming opportunity offered by the campaign. It is now known as  Manluk Centre: Wetaskiwin Regional Aquatics & Fitness.

    Wetaskiwin Co-op County Junction has claimed the naming rights to the Manluk Centre’s competition pool. It is expected there will be more sponsors announced.

    It’s impossible without access to information to assess exactly where the fundraising campaign stands but we do know that as of September 5th, 2013, the Wetaskiwin Memorial Fund bank account only recorded $187K of which $127K was raised in 2012. The campaign is almost  will soon be into its 20th month. 

    Two of the larger naming opportunities are gone. It’s like the television game ‘Deal or no Deal’. Once the briefcases with big dollar amounts are gone or lost, your value, when it goes back ‘to the banker’ for evaluation, declines dramatically. The other problem is when the keys to the new Aquatic Centre are handed over to the City in the spring of 2014, I expect the contractor, PCL Construction will want to be paid in full and not with pledges down the road.  The City will likely have to write a cheque for the full $22.4M of which a line item is identified as $2.75M of revenue from fundraising. Determining how to pay for the Aquatic Centre will be a very interesting and likely very difficult exercise for the new City Council during the 2014 budgeting process. 

    Information that has slowly risen to the surface. The City fundraising committee is not prepared to release any details of specific donations until a public launch that is planned for November 4th.  In the meantime is the old saying, ‘no news is good news’ holding true or is it a coincidence that November 4th is 12 days after the October 23rd election day? 

    The Mayor assured Council that “we have contracts with the businesses and will get the money”. None-the-less, until a receipt is issued, a pledge is not considered a donation; only a promise until the charity actually receives the money – 1, 10, 20 or 30 years later. In the meantime, Where is the extra cash going to come from to enable the City to pay for the Aquatic Centre?

     In the meantime, if there is a problem with financing for the Aquatic Centre or if there is a reason to celebrate, either way the community has a right to know.