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Omicron variant and storm damage leaves Manuel’s River Centre in the red

By Mark Squibb \ April 21, 2023

The Manuels River Community Incorporated board held its annual general meeting on April 2 at the centre, and members in attendance learned the not-for-profit inherited a deficit from 2022, largely due to factors beyond its control.

The centre pulled in $1.57 million in revenue in 2022, but still posted a deficit of about $130,000.

“When we entered 2022, like most people we felt that we were entering into a year without the pandemic, a more normal year,” said chairman Don Sword. “But unfortunately, we had Omicron facing us.”

Due to outbreaks of the new strain, the centre had to shut its doors once again.

To complicate matters further, a major winter storm caused significant flood damage that forced the board to close the trails to the public for a couple of months.

Repairs to the trail were costly, coming in at about $240,000, some $99,000 of which was to repair damage, and the remainder to rebuild the trail in an upgraded fashion.

“We were very gratified to have a lot of support from the community, and government, and we were able to get the necessary funding in place to repair the trails and re-open them,” said Sword. “So, when there was a second major storm that caused flood damage to other trails in the area, the St. John’s area in particular, the repairs and upgrading that we did by raising the trails a couple of feet meant that we didn’t suffer any damage the second time around. So, money well spent … If we had simply spent $100,000 to repair the trail, we would have had to spend that money a second time, because it would have been washed out a second time.”

Sword said the board was able to use government funding that had already been set aside.

“We had existing funding in place to upgrade the Canyon Trail, and we had intended on doing that in 2022,” said Sword. “But, because of the damage to the trail, we used a portion of those funds, plus money we raised in the community. But what that meant is that we now have spent time and money on the repairs, it means that we need to get funding in place to do the Canyon Trail this year instead. So, we’re put back a year.”

Sword said tat the deficit is a concern, but the board worked hard to minimize it.

He noted that government funding handed out in the midst of the pandemic had dried up by 2022.

“Moving forward, this year we’re reviewing all our programs and we’re looking to contain expenses where possible and add new revenue sources,” said Sword. “For example, we’re right in the midst of a remake of our kitchen and café which is about to reopen. So, we’re really pleased about that and we’re hoping that will become another go-to place in the community.”

Sword said that in the face of challenges, the board accomplished much this past year that he is proud of.

 “It was a challenging year, but I was really proud of how the broad and management and staff got together to deal with the issues that we had to deal with and to continue regular programs and services,” he said. “When we were able to open the centre, the centre was open, with all our regular programs and services.”

Despite the challenges, the group was able to replace the gazebo on the Lower Canyon Trail, serve over 6,500 meals to seniors in need through the Meals to Go program, and purchase a Hippocampe all-terrain wheelchair and ski attachments for trail users, and host annual special events such as the Bobber Race 50/50 lottery, Giv’er on the River fun run, and the Chefs for Trails food hike.

“We were able to basically keep the show going,” said Sword. “We’re very fortunate to have a hardworking and very talented group of management and staff led by executive director Janet Rumsey, and a very dedicated volunteer board and committee members.”

Sword extended his thanks to all those who have lent a hand over the last year.

Members voted to re-elect for two-year terms current directors Dave Works, Valerie Howe, Joan Butler, Jennifer Parsons and Don Sword and to elect for the first time Allison Penton and Lori Lynn Rowsell. Dave Locke, Gail Butler and Vince Payne retired from the board at the AGM.

Following the meeting, directors re-elected their executive officers for the upcoming year. Chairman Don Sword, vice chairman Dave Works, and treasurer Doug Russell will continue in their roles for another year, while Valerie Howe will act as secretary.

The centre will host the Giv’er on the River on June 11, and a BBQ dinner and auction on June 3. The online Bobber Race 50/50 will be launched May 4.

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