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Changes on stream for Sicamous

SS Sicamous Society president Jake Kimberley is hoping the historic sternwheeler has made it through financially troubled waters. - Western News file photo
SS Sicamous Society president Jake Kimberley is hoping the historic sternwheeler has made it through financially troubled waters.
— image credit: Western News file photo

With their line-of-credit frozen and on the cusp of a financial review by the city, the president of the SS Sicamous Society said the future will hold calmer waters.

“We are very optimistic that yes we can recover from this and have a good year ahead,” said president Jake Kimberley. “There is going to be some changes made from the way the operations were done in the past.”

It has been a tumultuous year and it came to a head when the SS Sicamous Society had concerns about the way things were being operated and planned to call for an employee review. They next found out there was two applications for certification with the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

“That sort of put everything in a crisis situation,” said Kimberley.

The labour board decided the manager position was exempt from the union and the Sicamous Society chose at that time to not renew that contract. The secretary position was given certification and Kimberly said a new local 5036 was established to look after the one union position.

While lawyer fees to deal with the union issue didn’t help, there are other things that have drained the Sicamous financially. In the past the society has organized events such as a musical production, taking the “gamble” as to whether it would return any funds. Kimberley estimates that they lost around $8,000 from last year’s production.

One thing that will be put on the table at the upcoming AGM on April 12 is restructuring how events on the ship work. It will be proposed that in the future the boat is contracted out for events and the society would take a percentage of the gate money. Currently the boat is closed but still available for rental.

All of these financial burdens have led to the society draining a hefty amount of the $50,000 line-of-credit.

“The account was frozen and the bank has a right to do that.” said Kimberley. “The society has always operated every year with that line of credit and in 2008 it had $42,000 out of it drawn, but was repaid by the funds from the city with a grant. The city is now going to cover the direct expenses of the boat.

“We have gone to the city and asked for outstanding money that was budgeted from the Sicamous in 2010 to be forwarded to 2011 so we can continue operating come April.”

Penticton city councillors Dan Albas, John Vassilaki and Garry Litke attended the information session on Saturday. Albas said financial issues and lack of financial transparency is the biggest downfall of the society.

“From my narrow perspective at council, that financial accountability is the most important in moving forward. There are a number of challenges, some are the community’s and some are the city’s,” Albas told the Penticton Western News.

The society has requested that the city allow $35,000 set aside in 2009 for security fencing at the Sicamous be released for other more appropriate uses.

Albas said the advancement of funds that will not be spent for its intended purpose along with the financial issues “is not, in my mind, acceptable.”

The city has requested a financial review or audit be done, at the city’s expense, to get a better grasp on the current state of the society.

“I believe that it is important to preserve an important heritage landmark such as the SS Sicamous. However, we must also practise prudent and transparent fiscal stewardship in the process. I believe this is one of the first steps that must be taken, and I am hopeful that more financial information is made available to city taxpayers in the near future,” said Albas on his blog www.pentictonpolitics.com.

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