Sidney asks neighbours to cost-share for local food bank

The mayors of Central and North Saanich are uncomfortable with a suggestion by Sidney town council that they chip in to the Sidney Lions Food Bank.

Sidney council approved a recommendation to send formal requests to both Central and North Saanich councils asking for ongoing donations toward the food bank’s utility costs and a one-time contribution to help the organization move to its new location in Iroquois Park this fall.

Both districts would be asked to annually toss in one-third of the bank’s utility costs, which are about $11,400 a year, and a one-time amount of $12,500 to cover a quarter of the moving cost.

Central Saanich Mayor Jack Mar said he had not yet received a letter, but was unsure about the idea.

“I’d have to give that some real thought,” he said. “I can see an up-front cost, but an ongoing cost, that would be a real issue for council.”

The idea was informally brought up at the tri-municipal meeting in May. Plans to hold an open house dissolved because of logistical issues, according to a Sidney staff report.

The idea of involving North and Central Saanich came from numbers that showed the food bank’s clients are evenly distributed between Sidney and the rest of the Peninsula, said Murray Clarke, Sidney chief administrative officer. As well, the Sidney area code also covers parts of Central and North Saanich, he said, so there may be even more users from the other districts.

“It provides a service that benefits the other two municipalities,” said Clarke.

Mar compared the request to a past suggestion, which was rejected, of cost-sharing for the Mary Winspear Centre, which is within Sidney town limits but used by the other two districts.

“All communities have different functions. Communities make use of each others’ facilities all the time,” Mar said.

North Saanich Mayor Alice Finall said council is already looking at budget items for next year, so any donations would be for 2012.

She also questioned whether council would support the idea, but said she needs more information first.

Both she and Mar said they would prefer to receive the letter and exact numbers before making a decision.

“I’d love to mull that over,” Mar said.

But Central Saanich councillor Terry Siklenka said he supports the idea in principle.

“I think the food bank is an excellent resource,” he said. “If it comes before council, I’d definitely consider it.”

Although the letter recived some support at Monday’s council meeting, Central Saanich deferred Sidney’s request to its 2012 grant-in-aid process.

Sidney council also passed a motion to eliminate nearly all of the food bank’s rent, reducing it from $6,000 to $1, beginning Jan. 1, 2012.

Clarke said it didn’t make sense to charge rent to the organization, which serves the community on a volunteer basis.

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