It’s not often that people welcome waiting in a lineup. But for supporters of the SS Sicamous, seeing a lineup of people waiting to purchase or renew their membership in the society that oversees the boat was definitely a welcome sight.
It was especially welcome for Jim Cooper, the president of the SS Sicamous Restoration Society and the only board member to have indicated he would stand for re-election at the first part of the society’s annual general meeting, which started on April 10. That meeting had to be adjourned to April 27, when it became clear that they wouldn’t be able to replace the outgoing directors of the society.
“If anybody wonders why there is only three of us, when there was nine elected, this is what it comes down to,” said Cooper, explaining that only two other members remained, both of whom were unable to make it for the meeting. “We came to the point where there would be nominations and there weren’t enough here to make it a proper process.”
Cooper explained to the membership that 2010 had taken its toll on the board as they dealt with severe challenges including legal and labour problems as well as misleading financial reports, a $42,000 debt, followed by the bank freezing their account and line of credit in January of this year and the City of Penticton holding back the society’s annual operating grant.
In the two weeks since the meeting started, Cooper said, volunteers had been hard at work phoning everyone on the membership list and trying to raise awareness about the plight of the heritage boat and Penticton landmark. At one point, Cooper feared that if they couldn’t get enough people out to the meeting, the board would collapse.
“This is a great turnout, much better than we had for the start of the meeting,” Cooper told the approximately 100 people filling the main hall on board the Sicamous. “This meeting is to try and get people to come forward. I am the only one left, I can’t hold everything together.”
Cooper did get eight people from the membership to join him on the board, including past board members Barb Schneiderat and Crystal Froese as well as some new faces, including Poonam Chahal, a young woman who earlier in the meeting suggested the society needed to do more volunteer recruiting among the city’s youth.
With a new board in place, Cooper said they would be able to produce the business plan required by the city and work to get the boat back in operation. While he had previously suggested one option was to keep the boat closed for the 2011 season, only opening it for revenue-generating rentals, Cooper had a new option.
“I know the city doesn’t want to close the boat over the summer and neither do any of you,” said Cooper, outlining a plan to ask the city to pay out the operating grants in monthly increments to hire a temporary manager for 2011, who would manage volunteers and the summer students.
“We do need an executive director here but we can’t afford to go out and hire one. We need to get the financial situation under control, operate the boat with volunteers or a temporary paid position, at least for this year,” said Cooper, who is optimistic about the future. “The boat brought in $220,000 last year, so it shouldn’t take any financial wizardry to make $40,000. It’s kind of a drop in the bucket.”
Councillors Gary Litke and John Vassilaki, who both attended the meeting, stated their personal conviction that council would be willing to support the society once things are sailing smoothly again.
“I think you are going to get things back under control here, but while things were spiralling out of control, council took the position that there would not be any further financial support,” said Litke. “The city will be prepared to release the funds, with the stipulation of a good business plan. When that plan is forthcoming the funds will be released.”