Following media reports about the City of Kamloops’ plan to take over operation of St. Andrews on the Square from the Kamloops Heritage Society, the city issued a statement on Tuesday.
In the statement, the city said the non-profit society board asked the city five years ago to develop a succession plan for the property.
“The board recognized at that time that its operational model was not sustainable and that the financial burden of operating, maintaining and repairing this heritage property would be too great for the society,” the city stated.
The society’s president, Peggy Broad, said she was not president at that time, but she disputes the city claim. She said the board asked the city to maintain the facility — but not operate it.
“We would prefer to run it ourselves,” she said.
The city statement added that: “Under the city’s operation, the facility will receive any required repairs and remain available for bookings by the public in the same way as the Old Courthouse, which is another heritage property that the city maintains and operates.”
Since 1995, the Kamloops Heritage Society has managed the city-owned building at Seymour Street and Second Avenue. The society has also restored the facility, which was built in 1887.
Broad said a letter from the mayor served notice to the society, with reasons including the society’s inability to keep up repairs and a desire to move the facility to an electronic booking system.
The society was also told by the city that the building is under-utilized, a claim disputed by Broad, who told KTW an event is held in the space almost daily, from funerals to weddings to meetings to yoga to indoor markets.
Coun. Denis Walsh chairs the finance committee. He said the committee was tasked in the summer with reviewing behind closed doors the city’s service agreements and decided at that time not to renew its contract with Kamloops Heritage Society, following recommendation from staff.
He said that since the decision was made, more information has come to light and he is now calling for a review and business case to better understand what the decision will cost taxpayers.
Broad said the society plans to meet with city staff on Friday, Oct. 11. She hopes the decision will change prior to the city’s scheduled takeover in six months’ time.
If the decision is final, however, Broad said the society would not likely collapse, but would pull out the pews and other church contents it owns and work with other groups in town.