Sept. 4 UPDATE: On Tuesday, Sept. 3 the Sidney Business Association announced it was closing its doors effective immediately.
In a five page press release the group cited lack of support from the Town of Sidney in the causes they were championing, among other things, as the reason they decided to close.
Watch for more on this story in the next edition of the PNR.
The Town of Sidney will explore additional collections options in order to recover nearly $20,000 owed to the municipality by the Sidney Business Association (SBA).
Town staff sought leave to write off the debt, created when the SBA did not pay the Town’s cost associated with the SBA’s running of the Thursday night street market in 2012. Only $1,000 has been recovered and the Town has since awarded the contract to run the summer market to another operator — with the same cost recovery stipulation.
Andrew Hicik, director of corporate services, said it isn’t likely the Town will be able to collect on the debt and had asked council to approve wiping it off the books. Councillor Tim Chad questioned that during a meeting of council recently, asking if staff had sought all collection options before coming to council.
“There’s nothing to collect against,” Hicik replied.
That sparked questions from council on the status of the SBA.
“Is it still running?” asked Coun. Steve Price.
Hicik said it still has an office that’s open but added it’s activity of late seems low.
Bill Buckley, president of the SBA, says the organization is still operating but admitted losing the summer market did hurt their bottom line.
“We didn’t have buckets of money to begin with,” he said, adding the Town didn’t seem to want to support them when it decided to take away the market last year.
He said the SBA hasn’t been able to catch up to the payments on this debt. He added they had been using revenue from the markets to cover the previous year’s costs. Now, without that source of income, they have to find other repayment options and that was the subject of a meeting with Town officials late last month. Buckley said he met with Town CAO Randy Humble to discuss the outstanding debt. Humble told the PNR, however, that meeting did not address this issue. Humble added the Town has not yet determined how it will recover the debt, and that will involve a specific meeting with the SBA.
Buckley said when they first started running the markets, the cost charged by the Town was low but continued to go up.
“There should be no cost,” he continued, adding the SBA did some research and found the Town charges more for organizations to hold markets than almost every other city in Canada.
“Originally, there was no fee. They supported the SBA originally and with a reasonable chunk of money. They were making an investment.”
Buckley said the SBA now receives most of tis revenue through memberships, its newsletter, a street banners program and Sidney guide.
“Membership is solid,” he said. “We have stable numbers.”
Buckley admitted the market was the SBA’s largest source of revenue and losing it meant they’ve had to cut back on expenses.
“Council didn’t look at the SBA’s books,” he said, “and took someone else’s word on our finances and then took the market away from us. If they were trying to eliminate us, that would be a good way of doing it.”
Buckely said the SBA is still open, but facing an uncertain future.
Sidney councillors moved ahead with plans to recoup the debt.
“I’m not comfortable about forgiving debts while a group is still running,” Price said.
Coun. Marilyn Loveless agreed, saying she would like to see those costs — already incurred by the taxpayer when the Town provided services at the 2012 street market — to be recovered.
“The Town was criticized for taking over the market,” added Coun. Kenny Podmore. “The Town knew something was up and we took that action and I’ll leave it at that.”
Council unanimously passed a motion to have staff make every effort to collect the money owing the municipality by the SBA.