Kamloops to hold referendum on proposed $70 million performing arts centre | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kamloops to hold referendum on proposed $70 million performing arts centre

A photo of a handout depicting a rendering of a new performing arts centre in downtown Kamloops distributed at the Jan. 8, 2019 city council meeting.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/CHP Architects
November 05, 2019 - 4:59 PM

Kamloops city council has voted to move forward with the proposed performing arts centre and has also decided to put the proposal to a referendum.

In 2015, the project was rejected by voters in a referendum but support for this new project is coming from unlikely community members.

Nelly Dever, the voice of the former opposition group PAC Not Yet took to the podium at city council's meeting today, Nov. 5, to announce her change of mind.

“This time around there’s a much better balance,” Dever says. “Hopefully it does come to fruition.”

The City of Kamloops will cover $45 million for the Performing Arts Centre, while the remaining $25 million of the projected cost would come from fundraising done by the Kamloops Centre for the Arts, a society created to support the development of the Performing Arts Centre.

Dever says the creation of the society and its fundraising plans are a key reason why she is taking a different stance this time around, although she emphasizes the importance of a successful fundraising campaign.

“The fundraising component is huge, and that’s really the fundamental basis of this particular business case that makes it more palatable. The City is looking at putting in a $45 million investment whereas $25 million is coming through fundraising efforts. If those fundraising efforts fail, all of a sudden you’re almost looking at a similar business case as you were the first time,” she says.

Dever has taken a look at the business plan put forth by the society and noted that some of the funds, such as $3.2 million for furnishings and $3 million for operating costs would have to be paid for by the City. She notes those figures were not included in the initial $45 million commitment from the City. She hopes the City can address these discrepancies and move forward with a referendum voted on by informed citizens.

“We have reservations and those reservations need to be properly addressed,” Dever says. “Those are the reservations that taxpayers had the first time around, that the majority of the financial burden was on the taxpayers, so if those issues aren’t addressed that we talked about today, it will go back to a tax burden.”

The City has a few options to choose from in order to fund its commitment to the performing arts centre. They will consider whether to save funds over time for the project, borrow long-term from the Municipal Finance Authority of B.C. or combine savings, reserves and take part in long term borrowing. The City plan will be determined once the referendum is complete, given that 50 per cent plus one in favour of the project.

Kathy Humphreys, a member of the Kamloops Centre for the Arts Society, says she is hopeful a referendum will bring a different outcome than the negative 2015 vote.

“I’m so excited, it’s been a long time coming and we feel really positive that this is, again, the right time and the right place and that this is going to be successful,” Humphreys says. “The community has changed in the last four years and the attitude of everyone we’ve been speaking to is so positive and I think people are starting to understand the need for the facility.”

The referendum was one of the three choices that the city council could have chosen in terms of seeking public approval for the centre.

The process of the referendum will cost the City between $100,000 and $120,000, which will cover marketing, public information and the vote itself. Other options, such as a counter-petition, would have cost only $10,000 but would have focused on the ‘no’ side of the issue, and could’ve been voted down if more than ten per cent voted against the project.

Humphreys is glad city council decided to go for the referendum, saying it has more of a positive note and will receive the most accurate feedback.

“They made the decision they thought was best... it’s better to have that positive approval for the project than to look at it from the negative standpoint,” Humphreys says. “It’s what’s decided and that’s what we’re going to do now, so we have some time to prepare for that and to get the voting public out to approve the project.”

City council voted unanimously in favour of the proposed performing arts centre, although Councillor Dennis Walsh excused himself from the debate and did not vote to avoid conflict of interest as he owns property within 100 metres of the proposed build site.

Councillor Kathy Sinclair noted how council supports the project, and how they are open to working out the details, such as those pointed out by Dever.

“I have to say how refreshing it is not to be the lonely voice for arts on this council and it’s something that we’re all seeing from an economic development point of view, we’re seeing the jobs it’s going to create in Kamloops, were seeing an opportunity, and again, we’re seeing right place, right project, right time,” Sinclair says. “We’re moving forward with full confidence and transparency. Bring those tough questions on, we will solve them together.”

For more information about the Performing Arts Centre and their business plan, check out the Centre for the Arts Society website here.

Find past stories on Kamloops's efforts to build a performing arts centre here.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Jenna Wheeler or call (250) 819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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