A delegation from the Lillooet Army Cadets appealed to council for a break, at the April 15 regular meeting, on rent for the group’s space the at the Lillooet REC Centre.
Cadets participate in their program at no charge, with most of their funding supplied by the Department of National Defense, and Lillooet Army Cadet Support Group president Robert Hale told council the rent at the facility is the one big-ticket budget item the group has to cover through money raised locally.
Hale began with some introductory words about the cadet group and its value to youth in the community.
“Speaking specifically to the one here in Lillooet… they provide unique opportunities for these youths that they wouldn’t have any other opportunity to have in any other youth organization, not only within Lillooet but also within the province and within the country,” he said.
Those include training in leadership skills, community skills, and benefits more specific to the organization such as bush craft, field craft, map and compass, and GPS training, Hale explained.
“The program itself is facilitated by the Department of Nation Defense.”
That can, unfortunately, create a bit of an optics problem that Hale said is undeserved.
“The cadets, as a whole, is a youth organization that has a bit of a stigma that I want to try and dispel for you in the next couple of minutes. Because there is a paramilitary or military attachment to it meaning that the cadets are all in a uniform, a military style uniform. The cadets are not part of the military. They’re actually volunteers. Instead, they’re provided a structured environment that gives them, not a military atmosphere but a structured and safe atmosphere that goes beyond what any other youth organization can provide for them.”
There are opportunities beyond local participation, including provincial, national and international competition, summer instructional camps of up to six weeks, which can take them around the world, and employment opportunities as instructors in those same camps as they get older.
“The catch to this whole program is that each one of those kids that walks through the door, they have one fee and one fee only, through the entire time that they’re a cadet, and that fee is their time. It doesn’t cost them anything to join the program, it doesn’t cost their parents anything to join the program, it doesn’t cost anything for the clothing the kids are loaned, it doesn’t cost them anything to go to the camps both locally, nationally and internationally, all of that is being paid for by the Department of National Defense.”
The no-fee, policy is not optional, Hale noted later, it’s mandated across the country by DND.
The one major exception to that is the cost the headquarters and training facility, which brought Hale back to the purpose of the delegation.
“For the last several years that we’ve been at the REC Centre it has been a burden on this support group to try to raise funds for that particular part of the cadet program.”
The rent at the REC Centre amounts to a little over $6,000 per year, and Hale said with approximately 16 kids a year participating in the program there isn’t a huge pool of parents to assist with fundraising.
The Lillooet Legion had previously sponsored the rent, but that donation has decreased significantly.
“Unfortunately because of their plight and their diminishing memberships and their diminishing fundraising availabilities, they are no longer able to support that $6,000 for us so we’ve had to come up with some creative ways to try to come up with that money to basically pay our rent.”
That has included holding raffles, garage sales, food drives, bottle drives and other efforts but it has been a struggle to cover the bill through those initiatives alone.
Hale proposed three possible scenarios in which council could help to ease the load.
The first one, which he described as “reaching for the sky,” was that the district supply the space rent-free. He told council it was possible for the donated space to be designated as a charitable donation.
The second option was that if the rental fee could not be eliminated, that it be substantially reduced – he proposed cutting it in half.
Finally, he floated the idea of a short-term deferment for a year or two.
“Thank you for offering some solutions,” Mayor Peter Busse replied.
“From my perspective, our deficit for running this place annually is substantially high so we’d probably be pretty protective of any revenue that we can get, but it’s certainly good of you to offer solutions.”
Coun. Laurie Hopfl, who noted her son was a cadet and benefited from the program, asked Hale if the high school had been approached for help with the problem.
Commanding Officer Capt. Tammy Hale, also part of the delegation, fielded that one, explaining the school is involved, specifically by giving course credits for cadet participation, but can’t help adequately with the providing space.
“The school has offered some assistance, but the big issue is what we need versus what they can offer and space is the big one. We need to have a dedicated space,” she said.
Coun. Jamie Howe made a motion that staff and REC Centre management meet with the group to seek a solution report back to staff.
Hale said he’d already met with recreation manager Bain Gair and been advised that direction from council would be needed before any accommodation could be made.
Coun. Jennifer Leach pointed out that a new fee schedule bylaw to help with the REC Centre deficit is in the works and that there would not be a significant impact on the shortfall even with that in place.
“I’m just having bit of a hard time, and it’s not because I don’t support the cadets at all, I think it’s a wonderful program and it’s something that Lillooet needs and the youth in Lillooet need, I’m just struggling with the financial aspect and the responsibility that we have to the community.”
She also wondered if there was an opportunity for cadets to work off some of the cost during the summer in lieu of monetary payment.
Busse stepped in at that point suggesting that it was too early in the process for council to make a decision or offer alternative proposals.
“It behooves us not to make a decision – we’ve been given three options – and I really feel it should go to staff… we should get back within an appropriate period of time but we should hear from staff in terms of what they feel and we put that together with what we feel and make the decision.”
Coun. Barbara Wiebe raised the idea that the rent could be deferred at least until the new fee schedule bylaw was complete.
Council then returned to the motion from Coun. Howe that staff be instructed to investigate and come back to council at a later date with options for addressing the issue. The motion was carried.