By Craig Westcott | The Irish Loop Post
A showdown was nearing this evening between the Bay Bulls to Bauline Athletic Association and two councillors with the Town of Bay Bulls just as the volunteer recreation group is on the verge of extending its operating agreements with Bay Bulls and Witless Bay. BBBAA chairman Scott Penney said the dispute appears to be due to a misunderstanding on the part of the two councillors, Joan Luby and Evelyn Tucker, concerning how the group spends a portion of the money it raises itself, separate from the $37,000 a year each that the towns contribute. The BBBAA board and the two councillors have been trying to hash out their differences in e-mails and meetings for the past several months, but have been unable to come to an agree
ment. This week, the town councils in both Bay Bulls and Witless Bay are expected to vote on whether to extend the organization's funding for another four years. The money that the towns contribute go towards covering the salaries of two senior staff members with the BBBAA, who effectively act as recreation directors for the two towns. "It's not the first time council has come after us and questioned everything, which is fine, we have no issue with that," Penney said. "But when you give them all the information, they don't read all the information and they don't understand it, that's the issue." Penney said the councillors are under the mistaken impression that the money the BBBAA donates to sports groups and towards recreation infrastructure in other communities in the region comes out of the annual operating grants from Bay Bulls and Witless Bay when that is not the case. The money actually comes from funds raised at the BBBAA's annual auction, which has taken in as much as $70,000 in a night, and from leveraging money from the provincial and federal governments, Penney said. The BBBAA's annual operating budget is in the range of $380,000 - $400,000, he noted. The funding from each of the towns works out to about 10 per cent of the BBBAA's budget and covers the cost of a recreation director and part time office manager, Penney said. Last year, the BBBAA contributed $35,000 of its own funds towards the refurbishment of the Witless Bay swimming pool. In recent years the organization has also contributed some $33,320 of its money to the building of a skateboard park, $30,000 for a basketball court, and $38,768 for a playground, all in Bay Bulls, effectively giving back to the town nearly as much as council has contributed in its yearly grant. "What Luby's and Tucker's issue is, they think that that money is theirs (the town's)," said Penney. "They don't understand that we're fundraising that (money) and that we then take it and disburse it towards a project." Penney said in each of the cases just noted, the towns were able to use the funds the BBBAA donated to leverage additional monies from the province and federal government to complete the respective projects. In addition, Penney said, the BBBAA is paying the Town of Bay Bulls some $40,000 a year in rent for space at the Regional Lifestyle Centre. The organization also pays $3,000 a year in rent for the office space it uses in the back of the Bay Bulls Town Hall. "There's no free ride," said Penney. “I think what it comes down to, to be honest with you, is that they want to control it (the BBBAA). And we said, 'You're not controlling it.' If we're going to go out and raise the money outside of council and it's for a sanctioned project, whether it be by the municipal government, federal or provincial, and we can leverage more money using our contribution to the project, then it's a win-win. We've never funded a project at 100 per cent, it's always been 50 per cent or less." Luby couldn’t be reached for comment Monday. But in a letter to Penney, from Luby and co-signed by Tucker, the councillors raised the possibility of Bay Bulls pulling all funding from the BBBAA, hiring it's own recreation coordinator and taking over the after-school program, which is housed in the Bay Bulls Regional Lifestyle Centre. “At this point in time it makes no sense for the Town of Bay Bulls or Witless Bay to be giving the BBBAA money and your association in turn donating money to whomever you see fit," Luby and Tucker wrote in the letter. "BBBAA, like other businesses has to have more revenues than expenses to stay afloat. The last two years that has not been the case. You can't expect taxpayers to keep donating to keep it going. You are going to have to figure out other ways to generate more revenue and to lower your expenses. Cutting out or eliminating donations would be a great start." The councillors are accusing the BBBAA of failing to keep an agreement to submit its monthly expenses to council for review. That claim is based on a motion of council passed in 2014 that the town ask the group for a monthly report on its financials. In their letter, Tucker and Luby admit the motion was never enforced, "which is not our problem." The pair say that when the new council requested the BBBAA's financial information it should have been provided "and we should not have been subjected to your hostility." In their letter, Luby and Tucker maintain the unaudited financial statements the BBBAA provided in response to an Access to Information request that they sent does not fulfill the request they made. Penney said the councillors have been given everything they've asked for, boxes and boxes of information. Penney said the BBBAA's volunteer board of directors find the dispute with the two councillors discouraging. "There's been a lot of talk of resignations, just because people are getting sick and tired of (the) short-sightedness," he added. "We're trying to plan now for our auction in six months time and looking for projects to contribute to and we just spent a month getting all our financials and all the old paperwork together for the two councillors and I don't even know if they understand or have read the information." Penney said the BBBAA has conducted 10 auctions over the past decade raising at least $600,000, money which has been used to leverage nearly three times as much again. "If you do that simple math, the BBBAA has generated, or increased revenue into the region of almost $2 million," Penney said. Penney added the BBBAA employs 20 to 25 students in the region every summer, and a number of students during the rest of the year in programs that look after 50 to 60 children in daycare and others in its after-school program. “The opportunities that we're providing all these kids year round for work helps in the development of the region, and these young students are proud to work for it," Penney said. "I don't think they (Luby and Tucker) comprehend what goes into this." Penney said aside from Luby and Tucker, the councils of both Bay Bulls and Witless Bay seem to value what the BBBAA is doing and he is hopeful both towns will renew the funding agreements. "I have no issue with councils that want to look at ways to improve things or how we can communicate with them, that's fine," Penney said. "We're all for that. Those (two) councillors have to understand what it is we're doing and how we do it... The question is, if you get rid of us, what's Plan B? Because if on November 13 you vote and say, 'We're not funding you,' then on November 14 you (the councils) are in the recreation business."