The city said no to Mount Sima, at least for this year.
On Monday night, city council voted four to two against giving the Friends of Sima funds to help run the hill this season.
As council made its decision, groans and boos rose from the crowded audience of Sima supporters, who left dispirited as soon as the vote was called.
The group had requested $72,400. That amount had decreased from $200,000, after including contributions by the territory and Mount Sima’s three user groups – Snowboard Yukon, the Alpine Ski Association and the Freestyle Ski Association.
By denying the request, city council will instead have to pay $65,000 to mothball the facility for the year.
Friends of Sima had also filed the paperwork required to incorporate, as requested by the city, Henderson said.
Before the decision, she made one final plea to the city to help fund the hill, highlighting the work her organization has done in its eight-week lifespan.
“We say we have done what council asked us. We say we have done much more. A ‘yes’ vote will allow us to move forward. A ‘no’ vote won’t just mean the hill won’t open. It will be seen as an insult to those of us who have done hard work over the past couple of weeks. It would strongly suggest that council is unwilling to work with the community,” Henderson said.
Henderson’s words were enough to convince Coun. John Streicker and Coun. Kirk Cameron. They were the only two who voted to provide the funding. Dave Stockdale was absent from the meeting.
“The amount of the ask is very close to the same amount as not running the hill,” said Streicker. “The difference to the taxpayer is not that big right now. We asked them to become a society. They signed the paperwork. We asked them to go get the community’s support, and they came back with 800 pledges. They’ve done what we asked them to. I think it would only be fair, and I’d be willing to support the total amount.”
But the others remained unconvinced.
“This decision kills me,” said deputy mayor Jocelyn Curteanu. “I can see the support out there. I can see the work that went into getting this hill up and running.”
“My heart tells me one thing, but my head, on the other hand, tells me a different story. We need to take adequate time to study all of the details, the past policies … it takes more than eight weeks to do that,” Curteanu said.
Friends of Sima have secured 800 pledges to buy season passes. The Yukon government promised to match donations up to $70,000 for this season, but that money depended on the city making a “significant” contribution.
Council debated the issue for over an hour before making its decision. At one point, Streicker proposed an amendment that would make city funding hinge upon the group securing money for half of their season pass pledges by Oct. 31.
But it wasn’t enough to convince his colleagues.
“I think it’s a breach of faith,” Henderson said after the vote.
“They put something to us, we rose to the challenge. It’s one argument after another and it changes every time. We met every challenge they put out to us. It’s extremely disappointing and crushing that the city has no faith, has no trust and doesn’t support that hill.”
Henderson couldn’t say whether the group would continue its fight to get the hill open.
“I don’t have any comment on that. That’s up to the volunteers to see what they can bring together,” Henderson said.
“I’m heartbroken,” said Norm Curzon, the president of Snowboard Yukon, in an interview following the meeting.
“The Friends of Sima put in a tremendous effort. It’s a shame to see that work did not lead to an immediate realization of their goal, which was seeing Sima open for this year. That doesn’t mean it isn’t possible for next year,” he said.
Curzon said that Snowboard Yukon plans to hold a board meeting to examine other training locations for its athletes, but that some are considering leaving the territory if the hill isn’t open.
Sport Yukon is equally concerned, said Tracey Bilsky, the organization’s president.
“I think that this will be detrimental to the grassroots growth and development of the sports. I don’t know if the city is too concerned about that or not. Definitely the development will plummet. That’s for sure,” Bilsky said.
Mayor Dan Curtis said on Tuesday that he will propose a motion to have an independent auditor examine the financial performance of the hill’s former operator, the Great Northern Ski Society.
“This isn’t a witch hunt. We want to look at all the grant money spent on the hill, whether municipal, territorial or federal, and see if we can figure out where things were falling down,” he said.
– With files from
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