November 06, 2021 – 2:32 PM
Contrary to an earlier pledge, politicians are moving forward with a loan plan of around $ 28 million to build the Greater Vernon Cultural Center.
At a meeting on November 3, members of the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee unanimously decided to go ahead with a $ 28 million borrowing plan and move forward with a smaller cultural center after millions of top government grants were rejected several months ago.
The move goes back on an earlier promise that money would not be borrowed if grants from the provincial and federal governments were refused.
However, politicians do not see this as a broken promise, reiterating that the public still has a say in whether the money should be borrowed or not.
The problem stems from what the public was told in the 2018 referendum for the $ 40 million Cultural Center.
At the time, the center was set to cost $ 40 million, with the North Okanagan Regional District borrowing $ 25 million and the remaining $ 11 million from provincial and federal grants, as well as $ 4 million in fundraising.
The public was told that the money would only be borrowed if the top-tier government grants arrived.
However, in September the grant applications were turned down.
Trustees of the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee are now suggesting that the money be borrowed through a method known as the alternative approval process. Faster and cheaper than a referendum, the process means money can be borrowed as long as 10 percent of voters do not object.
While this seems to completely contradict the earlier promise that the money would not be borrowed if the grants did not materialize, politicians disagree.
“(Because there was clearly community support for a new cultural center at the time, so it’s a reasonable way to continue it,” said Bob Fleming, vice-chair of the Greater Vernon advisory committee, at iINFOnews.ca. “This isn’t someone trying to slip anything. Out the back door. Rather than abandon the project altogether, the idea was to go back to the drawing board and propose a project that would achieve the objectives but on a smaller scale. ”
The original plan for the cultural center was to be a 39,000 square foot building that would have 200 seat performance space, a hall for traveling exhibitions as well as a new home for the Greater Vernon Museum and Archives and the Vernon Public Art Gallery .
The idea now proposed is that the cultural center will have an area of approximately 25,000 square feet and will be the new home of the Vernon Public Art Gallery and the Greater Vernon Museum and Archives, although the physical archives will remain where they are. . The building will also include a performance space for hosting events. The location remains the same, encompassing almost the entire block of 32nd Avenue and 29th Street.
The building will also be designed in such a way that it can be easily expanded in the future if provincial or federal grants materialize.
Whereas the original $ 25 million borrowing plan was to cost taxpayers $ 48 per year for the average household based on an assessed property value of $ 430,000. As borrowing costs have since declined, $ 28 million will be borrowed at the same cost to individual taxpayers.
The chairman of the Greater Vernon Advisory Board, Akbal Mund, does not view the use of the alternative approval process to borrow the funds as a waiver of the previous decision.
“What the general public has agreed on is that we want an arts and cultural installation … because that’s what the community needs,” Mund said.
Mund said he was convinced there would be no opposition to borrowing money and moving forward with the cultural center.
“At the end of the day, we want to build an arts and culture center… and how do we do it with the limited funds we currently have? ” he said.
North Okanagan Electoral Zone C Regional District Director Amanda Shatzko said the alternative approval process was a way to verify that the public was happy to move forward with the project.
“It’s up to the public to see what they want to do, they can always decide what they want to do,” Shatzko said.
But why not go to another referendum to see if the taxpayer in the Greater Vernon area wants to pay for a smaller cultural center?
Politicians point out that it’s fast and expensive, and the alternative approval process is a much faster and cheaper process.
Following the November 3 meeting, the file is now transferred to the North Okanagan Regional District Board of Directors, which met on November 17. The loan must also be approved by the councils of Vernon and Coldstream, and ultimately by the provincial government.
Shatzko said if all goes well, the excavators could be in the ground in the spring of 2023.
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News from © iINFOnews, 2021