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CVRD stays course on $50,000 ECO Depot ad campaign

The Cowichan Valley Regional District is prepared to follow through with expenditures of about $50,000 to tout the benefits of its controversial South Cowichan ECO Depot proposal.

This comes two months after the board approved an advertising budget with no hard cap. And it comes a week after a proposal to limit that budget to $20,000 was met with the revelation some directors were unaware what the communications project entailed and what it would cost.

In the resulting awkwardness, the board resolved to hold a special Oct. 18 meeting to give directors time to get up to speed.

At that meeting, directors received a breakdown of the campaign’s expected $48,275 cost — about $21,000 to pay for billboards, pamphlets, newspapers ads, a site office and a poll, the rest to pay Acumen Communications for creative and management fees.

Staff indicated about $25,000 had already been spent, and more essentially committed to.

The board decided in September an ad campaign was necessary prior to a Nov. 19 non-binding referendum to combat what it considered a large amount of misinformation being circulated by site opponents.

Board Chairwoman Gerry Giles said only nine directors were present for the vote that approved the initial campaign. Once the rest were brought up to snuff, they agreed to stay the course.

“They are generally receptive to the site and very receptive to taking it to the public,” she said.

Cowichan Lake South Director Ian Morrison said he’s not happy with the board’s response.

“There is no written resolution on record with a dollar figure on it,” he said. “I made it very clear I’m not supportive of the whole thing.”

In his view, directors felt they were in too deep to do anything else

“(They said) just what do we do? We’re into it this much, we can’t stop now.”

It was Morrison who instigated the $20,000 cap proposal at the Oct. 12 CVRD meeting, knowing the budget was about $50,000.

He believes that figure is way out of line, comparing it to the $13,000 spent touting the $7.9-million Cowichan Lake Arena renovation.

He also questions $6,500 budgeted for the poll, which he says is aimed at determining the effectiveness of the ad campaign and making any mid-stream adjustments the regional district deems necessary.

“It sounds like it’s win at all costs.”

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