What in the world is municipal council thinking?
Why would council choose to tear down the former corporation building, transformed over the past 16 years into a pristine gallery and arts centre, and replace it with a new structure to house the library.
No one disputes that the library needs a larger facility, but at the expense of an established arts centre? Surely there were other equally viable options.
Whatever led to council’s decision — whether they actually considered other options or not — it is unlikely that we, the public, will ever really know as the grunt work was done and the deal sealed in utmost secrecy.
Summerland Community Arts Council board members were kept completely out of the loop until less than a week before the deal was finalized and then asked to keep the matter confidential.
As a result, the rest of the membership and the general public were informed virtually at the same time when the announcement was made public Feb. 20 with an orchestrated news release in front of the soon to be demolished arts centre.
The secrecy, the lack of communication and the absence of negotiation among all involved is particularly difficult to understand.
Over the past 16 years, the relationship between Summerland Community Arts Council and municipal council has been very amicable and mutually supportive.
Make no mistake, the arts council has always been very grateful for the use of the former corporation building and has always recognized council’s right to sell the building.
However, it is safe to say that the expectation was always that at the very least the arts council would have a heads up and plenty of time to relocate if the building was put on the market. We obviously had no heads-up and the date by which we must vacate the premises (June of this year) is non-negotiable.
Finally, there’s the spin.
Julie McGuire, long-range planner for the municipality, outlined the benefits the new library would bring to the downtown core while noting that the temporary relocation of the arts centre to a store front further up Main Street would help give it additional exposure.
Echoing her sentiments, Mayor Janice Perrino stated, “I can’t begin to tell you what it (the new library facility) will do for Main Street and the economic boom it will bring. It couldn’t be better.”
Both points in my opinion are at best disingenuous. While the library is well used, it is hard to see how its new location and facility would truly result in an economic boom for Summerland.
Equally difficult to understand is how an interim location for the arts centre and gallery in an empty building best suited for a commercial venture could possibly be a plus.
As positive and optimistic as one tries to be, it is difficult to view what has transpired in the past couple of weeks as anything but a significant step backwards for the arts community.
Community Arts Council volunteer and lifetime member