The group behind a proposed interactive marine ecology display centre is expected to receive money from the City of Nanaimo, despite claiming it wouldn’t need city tax dollars.
During a finance and audit committee meeting on Wednesday, Nanaimo councillors voted 4-3 to recommend providing the Nanaimo Deep Discovery Association with $65,000 to help pay for feasibility studies and other costs related to their proposed $50-million Ocean Discovery Centre. The group was hoping for $100,000 from the city.
In a letter to city councillors, NDDA states it needs $127,575 to pay for a market assessment, fundraising consultant, feasibility study, architectural services and a promotional documentary. The letter also explains that the studies are needed in order to ensure the discovery centre is “sustainable without revenue from municipal taxes.”
The request comes seven months after councillors voted unanimously to allocate roughly 8,000 square metres of land along Port Drive for the discovery centre. That decision was made after the NDDA told councillors it needed the land in order to secure funding from various levels of government.
The NDDA’s website shows that there would be no financial commitment required from the city.
During Wednesday’s meeting, Coun. Jerry Hong said he couldn’t support giving the NDDA money when council has already approved giving them a piece of land, calling it “ludicrous.”
“I won’t support this until they come back and tell us what they’ve got for funding,” he said.
Hong also expressed concerns about how the NDDA wanted to spend the money, questioning the use of a fundraising consultant.
“Why do you need fundraising consultants when you don’t even have an actual business plan? How do you fundraise for something when you don’t even have a plan?” he asked. “So that seems to be a waste of money.”
Coun. Ian Thorpe said while he understands where Hong is coming from, he believes the Nanaimo Deep Discovery Association does need some seed money.
“I don’t have problem with a fundraising consultant for them, I think that is probably a wise move,” he said. “So I think, to me, matching funds is maybe a compromise between giving them money and doing nothing.
Coun. Bill Yoachim said he definitely supports the idea and called it a “positive” story. He said the city needs something positive right now and that sometimes a little bit of money is needed to make that happen.
“We’ve spent money on other things where I don’t think all the citizens have benefited, whereas this benefits all. This is a regional attraction,” he said. “I don’t want to be just another ‘no,’ Nanaimo-type mindset on this. You’ve got to spend some money to … get positive results.”
Councillors Hong, Fuller and Armstrong were opposed. Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay and Coun. Jim Kipp were absent. City councillors will vote on whether to accept the committee’s recommendation at a future council meeting.