The Kamloops Heritage Society is not going down without a fight.
On Tuesday, society members took advantage of the public inquiries portion of a Kamloops council meeting to once again express frustration with the city’s planned takeover next year of St. Andrews, the city’s oldest public building.
The decision was part of a city review of service agreements.
On Tuesday, society members demanded answers about the way in which the facility downtown at Seymour Street and Second Avenue will be run in the future, including costs to taxpayers and quality of service to those renting the heritage-designated former church. For example, if the building is to be run similarly to other city facilities, will staff set up a wedding, as has been the case in the past? Two events have apparently already been canceled, council heard.
“We’re very disappointed in your attitude and actions,” society secretary Bernice Mitchell told council.
However, the city maintains all events booked will be honoured and it appears the municipality has been trying to extend an olive branch as the public squabble continues, in trying to work with the society on a transition plan and preserve cultural items in the building, which are apparently for sale.
On Tuesday, Mayor Ken Christian revealed that the city has been reaching out to the society to negotiate a transition plan, which includes keeping on the society’s staff member and building caretaker, Melody Formanski. Christian told the society the city wants to do right by Formanski, who has been instrumental in persevering the heritage building, and has “no intention of firing people.”
The society has apparently not responded to the city.
“We have written to your society and you refuse to acknowledge that we have written,” Christian said.
Disagreement, however, extends beyond the issue of future operation of St. Andrews.
The two parties are also butting heads on the lease conditions. The society said the city is responsible for maintaining the facility, but the city argues the opposite. KTW has asked each party for a copy of the lease agreement and is awaiting a reply.
After the council meeting, the city issued a press release, which stated: “The existing lease with the Kamloops Heritage Society outlines that the operation, maintenance and repair of St. Andrews on the Square are the responsibility of the society. In exchange, the society keeps 100 per cent of the revenue generated by facility bookings.”
Furthermore, it states revenue generated by the society is not enough to cover operations and maintenance of the building, leading to council’s decision to assume management of the facility. Regular maintenance and repair includes hardwood floors, the HVAC system, exterior and interior paint, roofing and stained-glass windows.
“In order to properly preserve and protect this asset, significant expenditures will be required in the near future, which the city is ultimately responsible for as the owner of the building,” the city release states.
The city’s proposed transition plan spans 22 months. The city will assume responsibility for operations, maintenance and repairs effective March 1, 2020, and the society will continue to collect revenues for bookings until Dec. 31, 2021. The city will also pay the society $20 per hour to help with events and the group can use the facility for three hours per month, at no cost, to hold society meetings during that time.
The society said it will continue its online petition to maintain operation of the building. In the meantime, the city noted the group is selling contents of the building, some of which have cultural significance. The society has apparently posted a sign on the church listing building contents for sale.
“The city is aware of several items in the church with cultural and historic significance,” the city states in its release. “In an effort to preserve this history and the beloved atmosphere of the building, the city has expressed interest in purchasing items from the society. The society has yet to respond to this request and has not provided a list of items or prices.”
The society has told KTW that contents it owns in St. Andrews will leave with the society, but council was told on Tuesday the society will not go so far as to sell the stained-glass windows.