Access denied, for now

Parksville city council will take another look at funding request from the chair of the Access Oceanside Association to attend conference

The morning after receiving a cool reception from Parksville city council, Suzan Jennings said Tuesday she was “feeling a little beat up.”

The chair of the Access Oceanside Association (AOA) appeared before council Monday night, looking for some financial support to attend the International Summit on Accessibility this July in Ottawa. She was asking for some help from the city to defray costs of attending the event, where she will be one of 25 speakers/presenters and one of 500 delegates.

Jennings said she has already purchased the flights for herself and her caregiver/husband John. She has been doing the rounds, asking councils and other organizations to help her with costs related to meals, accommodation and conference registration. She said she has been denied at every turn.

“How hard do you have to beat your head against a wall,” Jennings said Tuesday.

Jennings has been looking for help to cover about $2,450 in costs.

“I’m sure if you go you will bring back a lot of useful information,” said Coun. Al Greir. “But this would be very low on the priority list of where we spend taxpayer money.”

Coun. Marc Lefebvre, the city’s liaison to Jennings’ committee, said he wasn’t surprised by Greir’s response.

“I’m used to it by now,” said Lefebvre, adding the trip to Ottawa “would not a be a trip to have fun and socialize.”

Jennings also had a comeback for Greir.

“Sir, you are not young and you are going to need (accessibility) services some day,” she said.

While Jennings said she would learn, and bring back to share, best accessibility practices from the summit, Coun. Peter Morrison said he got the impression she would not share the info if she did not get funding for the trip. Morrison also questioned Jennings’ numbers, specifically the need for a six-night hotel stay for a three-day conference and $1,000 for meals.

In the end, council deferred any decision on the funding request to its budget deliberations, which began Wednesday.

On Tuesday morning, Jennings confirmed she is still going to the summit. She also said the number she provided for meals was “a rough quote” and she also dismissed Morrison’s concerns about sharing information.

“I certainly will share the information, it’s too valuable,” she said.

Greir was asked Monday after the council meeting if he has attended conferences funded by taxpayers, yearly events like the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention.

“I don’t go to the UBCM every year and I won’t be going this year,” said Greir, who was asked why he thought it was important for taxpayers to fund trips to the UBCM for councillors. “We’re running the city here,” he said, “. . . that’s the way it is.”

Jennings’ association suffered a double whammy of sorts Monday night, when council approved (Levebvre and Coun. Sue Powell opposed) a list of organizations that would receive a total of $1,850 in grants. Of the eight applications received, six received funds. AOA and Vancouver Island Opera were denied. Receiving funds were: BSS Dry Grad ($300), BLT ($250), Oceanside Community Arts Council ($250), Parksville and District Musical Association ($250), Parksville Lawn Bowling Club ($300) and Ravensong Breakers Aquatic Club ($500).

Greir later said AOA was denied because it did not file the proper financial information with its grant application. Powell said she voted against the list of grants because council set aside $2,500 for this purpose and only $1,850 was used.

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