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Santa Claus parade organizers want more city support

By Kevin Werner, METROLAND WEST MEDIA GROUP

Stoney Creek’s Santa Claus Parade volunteers are accusing city hall staff and politicians of acting like Grinches and putting at risk the future of the popular community event. Their counterparts in Flamborough are also feeling the pressures of rising costs and uncertain funding.

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Grinch and it lives at city hall,” says Rob Naylor, one of six volunteers who have helped to organize the Stoney Creek parade.

Last November, volunteers were shocked to learn they would have to pay about $12,941.50 for policing costs, and installing the barricades and signage for the road where the parade would occur, costs that the city in the past had paid.

If it wasn’t for the quick intervention of Stoney Creek councillor Brad Clark, who secured $15,000 in annual funding for three years from the Heritage Green Trust fund, the 2012 parade would have been cancelled.

The Flamborough parade faced a similar scenario. With the 17th annual procession held last November costing about $35,000 to stage and the in-kind donation for police services from the city being phased out this year to be replaced by another stream of funding, organizers feared the 2012 parade might be the community’s last. But a plea to the community saw Loonie Bin donations–voluntary contributions made by spectators to volunteers carrying the bins along the parade route–jump from $5,000 to $16,000 in November, guaranteeing a parade in 2013.

In Stoney Creek, the trust fund money only covered what the city billed the parade organizers. To rub salt into their wound, not only did the city send a $784 bill to organizers Jan. 29 for road signage, it also rejected their Community Partnership Program (CPP) application in 2012  – and for the next two years – because of the $15,000 grant.

Stunned after receiving the $784 bill from the city, another Stoney Creek Parade volunteer, Connie Behie, said the organizers believed the bill for the signs was included in the initial $5,454.48 for the road barricades costs. “I just can’t believe what they are doing,” she said. “This has all come as a shock to us. We are not-for-profit. This is strictly a community parade, free for the public.”

Naylor said it may be futile, but the Stoney Creek volunteers plan to meet their colleagues from Hamilton and Waterdown to compare notes, and see if they can fight city hall.

While members of the Flamborough Santa Claus Parade Committee haven’t yet been contacted by the Stoney Creek volunteers, Shannon Newell, secretary-treasurer of the Flamborough group, said, “We have no intent to fight city hall. That would be biting the hand that feeds us.”

She said the committee is open to “exchanging ideas” with other groups and possibly sharing contacts and resources, but nothing beyond that. “Although we have been disappointed by the lack of support from the city, we still need to maintain the support that we do have.”

The Flamborough committee has applied for a grant of $10,750 from the city’s CPP program for the 2013 parade. From this, it will have to pay about $6,000 in policing costs, $3,500 for barricade setup and removal and about $1,700 for installing and removing warning boards advising residents of temporary road closures along the parade route.

Dundas councillor Russ Powers, chair of council’s grants committee, said three years ago council agreed to cut its funding to community groups while increasing the amount of CPP grants to festivals and parades. The city wants groups to pay for policing and road closures.

The Stoney Creek Santa Claus Parade applied for the CPP grant last year, said Naylor, and was expecting to receive $4,176. But that was scuttled by the city once the organizers received the trust fund money.

The Special Event Advisory Team application form states that the city “no longer provides events with barricades, pylons, set-up, staff, ‘road closed’ signage or other supplies needed to close the road.” In addition, it states the city does not pay the cost of traffic detour signs, or warning boards that may be needed for the events.

- With files by Dianne Cornish • Review

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