UPDATE: Feb. 12, 2013 - 4:51 p.m.
By Charlotte Helston
City council discussions on the future of the Anna Cail Heritage Hall will remain in-camera after a delegation from the Okanagan Science Centre voiced their opinion on the matter today.
Executive director Sandi Dixon and vice-chairperson Robert Clarke told council the hall is vital if the OSC wants to grow. Dixon said membership has climbed from 90 families to over 1000 since the centre opened its doors. The centre's audience has branched out too with exhibits and programs aimed at children, young adults and adults.
"Our board has looked five years ahead and all we see is growth," Clarke said.
"With this growth, we have need for space," Dixon said. The OSC has used the hall for four years as a storage space for exhibits. Increasingly, the space is needed for programming as well.
Dixon said it's safer to host camps in the hall rather than in the main building where visitors are constantly coming and going.
"We need a safe place away from the public," Dixon said, adding that if they are forced to use the main building, staffing will have to go up for supervision of the students. She said the OSC uses the hall for multiple events, including birthdays, summer camps and Pro-D day camps.
"We were quite surprised there were other plans for (the hall)," Dixon said.
All city hall discussions on the building have been in-camera so far, with council only admitting that talks are in progress.
"It's appropriate (the Science Centre) brings this up," Mayor Rob Sawatzky told reporters. "They made a good argument and it will be an interesting in-camera discussion."
Sawatzky said the matter has been kept behind closed doors because it is a land issue. The future of the building will be discussed privately by council in the coming weeks. For now, they have told the OSC the hall will at least be available to them this summer.
If the OSC loses access to the hall, it will be forced to seek other options, including off-site storage containers, or rented venues for its programs.
To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (250)309-5230.
Feb. 12, 2013 - 1:28 p.m.
By Charlotte Helston
The City of Vernon has its eyes on precious real-estate adjacent to the Okanagan Science Centre. The 1926 Anna Cail Heritage Hall is used by the OSC, which rents it from the city, as a space for programs and storage of exhibits. The city won't say why it's suddenly cutting cords on the lease.
Robert Clarke, vice-chairperson, says the building is essential to the centre's growth and service to the community.
"The OSC has grown to depend upon this building... due to demand of the community expanding their programs and exhibit acquisition accordingly," Clarke says. "A long term use of this building by the OSC has been part of our long term planning."
The hall is located just steps from the Science Centre in Polson Park.
"The hall area is great for groups of children," Clarke says. The OSC offers programs to both adults and children, and the Anna Cail Heritage Hall is a go-to space for activities and experiments. With exhibits taking up most of the main building, the hall provides cherished space for programs. Without it, the centre would have to rent off-site spaces for classes.
"The hall is right beside the centre," Clarke says. "That means there's no issue with transporting kids, we just walk them over."
The OSC recently renovated its basement for programming uses, but quickly found that demand exceeded its capacity. Clarke says the hall is essential to expanding programming.
The hall also serves as a storage space when travelling exhibits come to town.
"When we get a travelling exhibit, we move the regular exhibit out of the centre," Clarke says. In the past, that has meant the hall. Now, the OSC could be forced to stash exhibits in off-site storage containers.
Clarke says containers are not ideal because it would be difficult to access specific exhibits buried deep within the unit. Additionally, moving items would mean staff would have to transport items in a truck to and from the centre.
Sandi Dixon, OSC executive director, will make a presentation to city council this afternoon, appealing the decision.
"Losing the hall would limit growth," Clarke says. "We hope the city will give that consideration."
To contact a reporter for this story email Charlotte Helston at email@example.com or phone (250)309-5230.