“IT’S WHERE OUR COMMUNITY MEETS.”
WEST KELOWNA - Still no word on the cause of the fire that destroyed the Westbank Lion’s Community Centre in downtown West Kelowna.
Investigators have been on the scene of Sunday morning’s devastating fire. The historic landmark went up in flames as members of the community looked on in disbelief. The cause is still listed as "undetermined." Fire investigators will be back going through the rubble on Tuesday.
Along with the fire investigators, an insurance adjuster is looking into the fire. The Westbank Lions Club also has restoration experts and structural engineers looking at the building.
The club owns both the building and the land it’s on, so they could restore the hall or build a new one. It all depends on how much damage was down to the structure.
“It (the fire) has had a huge impact on our community because that’s where our community meets,” District of West Kelowna mayor Doug Findlater said. He was spending holiday Monday reflecting on the fire that has left the community reeling.
“Anytime time there is a significant public event… there are funerals held there, there are weddings held there, there are anniversaries held there,” Findlater said.
The District of West Kelowna used the Lion’s Hall for open houses, public meetings and budget consultations. Community associations held their annual general meetings at the hall. Service clubs used the smaller rooms for their meetings.
Findlater points out there are 3 tenants with offices and facilities in the basement that are now displaced. School District 23 ran it’s alternate school from the Community Centre. The Okanagan Boys and Girls Club programs were housed there, The Red Cross loaned medical equipment from an office there.
In a message posted to the Central Okanagan School District's website, superintendent Hugh Gloster is asking students who were scheduled to attend the Westside Storefront School to go to the Central School at 1825 Richter St. in Kelowna instead.
“This is a very significant problem for our community in terms of office space, public space for meetings and clubs,” the mayor said.
The District has an inventory of meeting spaces and halls that was prepared in 2008. That inventory includes church halls, school space, hotel meeting rooms.
“The district will update the inventory and make it available to groups while the way forward becomes clear.”
It’s too early to tell if the fire will change the district’s planning for a new municipal hall and community centre. Findlater tells InfoTel news the Lion’s members he’s talked to are surprised by questions from the media about selling the property to the district for a new municipal hall. If the district is approached by the Lion’s about a partnership, “then council would have to consider that.”
The district did a recent market survey and have decided to locate a new municipal hall in the Westbank part of town. “The district owns several properties in the downtown,” Findlater said. “At least two developers have come forward interested in P3s.” A P3 is a public-private partnership. The private company builds the facility and then the government leases it.
According to the mayor the proposals are being looked at and evaluated but no decision has been made.
As for the Lion’s Club, “Obviously if something were to come out of this situation and another option was put on the table, we would take a look at it.”
“The Lions are a long ways from that, as are we. Both parties have other options,” Findlater said.