Council to decide whether to support proposed performing arts centre

Kamloops city council will decide next week whether or not to support a community-based pitch for a performing arts centre — and, if so, whether to send the project to referendum next year.

Council tasked staff with reviewing a business case recently presented by Kamloops Centre for the Arts Society.

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In a report headed for council’s regular meeting on Tuesday, staff recommend partnering with the society to develop Kamloops Centre for the Arts downtown at Fourth Avenue and Seymour Street, and outline options — counter-petition, referendum or counter-petition then referendum — in which to seek electoral approval to borrow up to $45 million to help pay for the $70-million facility.

The report noted an arts centre has been deemed a priority in myriad city plans for more than two decades, with demand only increasing as the city grows and infrastructure ages and rental availability dwindling.

It said challenges booking Sagebrush Theatre, Pavilion Theatre and Oasis Church — formerly Calvary Community Church — were made worse when Sagebrush closed for a good chunk of this year due to structural issues.

“In the four years since the 2015 referendum, meeting the demand for cultural facilities is more challenging than ever,” the report said.

The society is hoping to raise, through grants and fundraising, between $25 million and $40 million, meaning the city would be on the hook for between $30 million and $45 million to build the proposed facility.

The city’s maximum monetary contribution is not expected to increase property taxes.

In the report, the city noted other projects on its books will be fully paid off in the coming years, with the city proposing to roll the facility into its debt load with no increase to property tax bills.

“Compared to the previous timing of the proposal, the city is in a stronger financial position and is able to absorb the new debt into its existing financial plan without a direct impact to the rates,” the report stated.

The city could also reduce lending with up to $10 million from current and future reserves. Operating costs of the facility would, however, be paid for via taxation. The society proposes to run the city-owned facility as close to break-even as possible.

To borrow money beyond five years, the city requires approval from the electorate. That can be done through counter-petition, referendum or both.

Counter-petition is the most common way in which the city lends money. It notifies the public through advertisements in the newspaper and otherwise of its intention to borrow, allowing a month for the public to assemble, if it so wishes, a petition in opposition signed by at least 10 per cent of the electorate. About 6,800 people would need to sign the counter-petition.

The city estimates that process to be the cheapest and fastest way to get approval, at less than $10,000 with use of internal staff and taking little more than a month. That process could happen as early as January 2020.

A referendum would take longer and cost more, about six months time and between $100,000 and $120,000.

The earliest date for a referendum would be March 2020.

The previous business case for a performing arts centre was quashed marginally in a 2015 referendum.

At least one city councillor (Arjun Singh) and the society’s largest proponent (Ron Fawcett) have already called for the new proposal to go to referendum, based on the previous proposal being defeated.

Council could also opt for counter-petition, then a referendum, which would cost the most and take the most time.

© Kamloops This Week


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