While storage space for the Lady of the Lake float is still up in the air, the Town of Lake Cowichan has offered the community group ownership of the white pickup truck it uses when pulling the float in parades and traveling to other communities.
On July 5, the town’s parks and recreation committee voted unanimously in favour of offering the Lady of the Lake Society permanent ownership of the Chevrolet half-ton pickup truck for a nominal fee of $1.
“It’s not usual for any municipality to allow other groups to use town equipment. That’s quite unusual but we have allowed an entity that’s not attached to the town to use the truck on [an] as-needed basis,” said chief administrative officer Joseph Fernandez at the meeting.
“I don’t think we’re in a position to keep supplying trucks for the use of the entity that’s a society. So my recommendation, staff’s recommendation, would be to donate that truck to Lady of the Lake Society so we don’t have to worry about maintenance, we don’t have to worry about insurance, all of [those] issues.”
Fernandez cited a past incident in which the truck broke down while in the United States for an event the Lady of the Lake group was attending as one of the reasons it would be best for the town to move away from the practice of lending one of its trucks out.
“I had to authorize an expenditure… that happened out of the country, and you begin to wonder why this town should be stuck with such expenses,” he said. “And maybe we would have had that expense anyway [while using] it for town purposes.”
Fernandez did not have an exact figure he could share at the meeting.
Rob Frost, a volunteer who drives and maintains the Lady of the Lake float, said the society did receive a letter of offer from the town but will have to meet first to discuss the pros and cons of taking possession of the truck.
“One of the biggest problems for us would be the insurance cost because our funding has dropped over the years,” he said. “[The truck] is likely going to need some repairs in the near future so it might be difficult for us.”
Frost said they could see if the town would be willing to increase next year’s grant-in-aid to help cover those insurance costs, or perhaps a local business or mechanic would be willing to help out with the vehicle’s maintenance in exchange for advertising on the side of the vehicle or float during parades.
He said in the town’s letter, the group was given until Sept. 30 to use the vehicle if they opt not to take ownership of it.
“We’ll get back to them fairly soon,” said Frost.
The Lady of the Society has relied on town vehicles for its parade activities for the entire 12 years Frost has volunteered with the group. He said prior to his involvement, the society used two town trucks, one for pulling the float and another for transporting the Lady of the Lake candidates and their luggage on out-of-town trips.
Frost said the current float was designed to fit with this truck specifically, so while some people have asked why the society doesn’t simply rent a truck each time they have a parade, it’s not quite so simple.
“It’s all engineered to fit that specific truck. So there’s lots of welding underneath and engineering that no one sees. So you can’t just plunk the parts on a different truck, or I’d tow it with mine,” he said.
One benefit of owning the truck would be the society’s freedom to allow whoever it wants to operate the vehicle.
Presently, the only people permitted to drive the truck must be employees of the town, the CVRD or the school district. (Frost works for the CVRD.)
“That really limits availability of the driver,” he said. “If we did own a truck we could have anyone we want to drive it, really, that would be a good plus for us.”