A number of men and a woman sitted around a U shaped table

Cortes Island matters at EASC’s Inaugural Meeting

A number of Cortes Island matters were discussed at the new Electoral Areas Service Committee’s (EASC) Inaugural meeting. This is a special committee made up of the four Strathcona Regional District rural directors and the first stop before their concerns are brought before the full board. The initial discussion of Cortes Island’s proposed Grants in Aid; a Whaletown Community Club request for funding to install a wheelchair ramp at the Old Schoolhouse Art Gallery; and a proposed staff report about liveaboards: were all on the agenda today. As expected Gerald Whalley, the only director to have previously served on the Board, was elected Chair. The big news is that Cortes Island Director Mark Vonesch has been elected Vice Chair.

Map showing the SRD’s four electoral areas – courtesy SRD website

Robyn Mawhinney, Regional Director for Area C, made the nomination, “I would like to nominate Mark Vonesch for Vice Chair.” 

To which Thomas Yates, Senior Manager of the SRD responded. “Thank you. Director Mawhinney. Director Vonesch,  would you accept that nomination?”

“I do.” 

“Thank you very much. Are there other nominations for Vice-Chair?”

After a moment of silence, Yates continued, “For the third and last time and hearing none, I will declare Director Vonesch as the Vice Chair for 2023 for the East Committee.” 

Cortes Island Grants in Aid

Under former Regional Director Noba Anderson, Cortes Island’s social profits made the recommendations as to how Cortes Island’s $25,000 Grant in Aid budget should be allocated in 2020 and 2021

Anderson did not seek re-election, and on Oct 3, 2022 the Cortes Island Community Foundation, with assistance from volunteer community leaders, submitted a recommendation that:

  1. $3,000 be given to the Cortes Community Radio Society for capacity building in their emergency communications team
  2. $3,000 be given to the Cortes Island Seniors Society for their Better at Home Program
  3. $3,000 be given to the Old Schoolhouse Art Gallery for Art Education Programming
  4. $6,000 be given to the Cortes Community Health Association, to be divided between their Teen Szene program and Family Support Program. 
  5. the remaining $4,000 was to go to the Cortes Island Community Foundation’s Community Grant Fund.  
Screenshot from the cover letter, accompanying the WCC Grant-in-Aid Application sent to Mark Vonesch and the SRD Board on October 18, 2022

A month later, on Nov 9, 2022,  Mark Voesch was sworn in, as the Regional Director for Area B (Cortes Island).

Cortes Island’s proposed Grants in Aid were discussed at EASC’s June 11 meeting.

In the staff report attached to the Cortes Foundation’s recommendations it states, “the Regional District does not have an agreement that authorizes the Foundation to be the intake point or the arbiter for grants that are publicly funded on Cortes Island.” 

Regional Director Vonesch added, “ I appreciate the staff mentioning the process challenges that have happened here and  just letting staff know I have reached out to the community foundation, letting them know that recommendations should come to the director and then the director should be  interfacing with the SRD rather than the community foundation.”

Chief Administrative Officer David Leitch advised Vonesch that, “Directors are allowed to have as many consultation community groups as they want. You can consult all day and all night if you want. That direction, though, ultimately comes from you. So there’s no authority that any of these groups have. They’re just advocacy support groups for you.”

Leitch spoke against the idea of providing the Cortes Foundation with access to the residual funds.

Staff presented three options. The second of these, Option B, is that all of the proposed Grants in Aid be approved except the $4,000 for the Cortes Foundation. 

Leitch explained,  “It would, in my view, be inappropriate to give the group the foundation, the remainder of the money. The board has no identity of where that money is going and what it’s being used for. So in light of that, I suppose if there was a recommendation, it would be that the staff  would support B.”

Director Vonesch responded, “I would like to move Option B.” 

This motion was unanimously supported by the other three Directors and will be sent to the SRD Board as a recommendation. At that point anyone on the board can comment, but the final decision will be made by the same four EASC directors.

The Old SchoolHouse art Gallery at 1450 Carrington Bay Road, Whaletown, is not funded through Cortes Island’s Hall Tax – Photo by Roy L Hales

Wheelchair Access for the Old Schoolhouse Art Gallery 

The Whaletown Community Club (WCC) request for funding to provide wheelchair access to the Old Schoolhouse Art Gallery was greeted by confusion. 

It was written up as a $2,500 Grant in Aid application, but submitted apart from the other Cortes Grants in Aid, as correspondence. 

The WCC owns three properties: Gorge Hall, the Old Schoolhouse Art Gallery and Whaletown cemetery. 

One of these properties, Gorge Hall, receives funding through the Hall tax included in Cortes Island property taxes.

There is no corresponding funding for the Old School House Gallery, but the application form asks that the WCC list the programs and activities it sponsored last year. 

The WCC dutifully listed the events at Gorge Hall. 

  1. The Halloween celebration on October 31
  2. Whaletown Winter Bazaar on Dec 4
  3. Christmas dinner on Dec 10
  4. An Easter Egg Hunt on April 17
  5. Parents and Tots every Monday
  6. Several concerts and dances throughout the year
Events like the community Christmas Dinner are held at Gorge Hall on Robertson Road, Whaletown, which does receive funding through the Hall Tax

None of these took place at the Old Schoolhouse Art Gallery, which is a separate building with a seperate agenda, but this list appears to have confused Director Vonesch. 

“It seems like this was already in their budget request as part of hall funding requisition. Was that part of their budget? I’m just confused why they would’ve sent it like this,” he said.

The application was received as correspondence and the committee passed on to other matters.” 

Staff report on liveaboards and derelict boats

Director Vonesch stated that Cortes Island has a problem with the growing number of people living on boats in its harbours and also the number of abandoned vessels. 

“ I’m looking for a report from staff on best practices that other communities have used to address the growing number of derelicts and liveaboards given the environmental and social concerns,” he said.

Director Mawhinney added, “I’m happy that you brought this forward Director Vonsech because it is a concern that we are facing also on Quadra Island.  We have boats that break up and wash ashore every winter.” 

The resulting motion, that staff prepare a report,  carried with no opposition. 

Top image credit: EASC assembling for their June 11 meeting. (l to r) Robyn Mawhinney (Director Area C), CAO David Leitch, Senior Manager Thomas Yates, John Rice (Director, Area D), Gerald Whalley (Director, Area A), Mark Vonesch (Director, Area B) Two staff membersScreenshot from meeting.

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