Colour us confused over here.
We’ve just gone over the announcement of the 2013 Festivals Events and Animations (FE&A) program budget and some things are lacking clarity.
The FE&A program has been a self-acknowledged work in progress for a few years now. The strategy is designed to enhance resort experience while driving room nights — a requirement of the provincial funds. Its goals include to align with the Whistler brand, deliver positive overall economic impact and strengthen the resort’s reputation as a destination for sport, arts, culture and entertainment.
This week the oversight committee made its recommendations for how the $2.84 million in FE&A funds expected this year should be divvied up between the RMOW’s own programming, animation in the Village, events considered in the test and development state and, of course, augmentation funds for events produced by third parties.
To get to the point, our confusion specifically surrounds how the augmentation funds are being spent. You see, the RMOW has been very clear that augmentation is about enhancing an event’s offerings or enhancing the production of the event through technical equipment, security, ticketing, utilities and more. For example, the World Ski and Snowboard Festival would use augmentation funds to provide free concerts, or if the committee had granted WinterPride funding it would have used that money to bring in an A-list act. It is all in the definition of the world augment, really, and it is supposed to be a one-time deal.
So when the Ironman event was listed under the FE&A program as being funded through augmentation to the tune of $250,000, we started scratching our heads.
According to our records that includes an $100,000 licensing fee and the other $150,000 worth of services municipal staff will provide to make that event a success. Think waiving permit fees, staff time, park rentals etc. and it would be repeated into the future over the next five years.
But wait a minute. That doesn’t fit the definition of augmentation we were working with. We tried to get somebody from the muni on the phone to explain it all to us to no avail. Quelle surprise. We sent emails back and forth for answers and were told there is no licensing fee and that’s it. That means the mayor’s report and council briefs released by the muni in October were incorrect in stating that fact, as well as the story The Question and other media published at the time. We’re not so sure.
The RMOW can call it whatever it likes, but by its very definition those funds are not being used to augment that event according to the definition we and every other event producer that applied for FE&A funds was working with.
We get they want to be strategic with how this money is spent, but changing the rules part way through the game causes confusion and shows no respect for the process and policy that this committee and council hangs its hat on.
It is not spending the money that is the problem, it is how they have gone about it that has us and others wondering again how the FE&A program works to begin with.
If the RMOW wants to pay events like Ironman to come to Whistler and use FE&A augmentation funds to do so, they should be up front about it and make it part of how the program operates.