I am moved to write about the municipal council’s recent decision regarding the new site of the public library.
While I am pleased that a decision has finally been made, and that solid plans have been made with the Okanagan Regional Library Board regarding an expanded new library in Summerland, I am mystified by the quick slam dunk approach taken in the decision.
I also wonder why the decision requires the demolition of two downtown buildings and the sale of a piece of presumably valuable municipal property in order to make way for a new library.
The original idea of placing a library as the cornerstone of development on the Wharton/Kelly corner seemed ideal, and could have entailed a leasing of municipal property rather than a sale. It would also have required no cost in terms of demolition, and no cost to the garage business owner and the Summerland Community Arts Council.
Now downtown will be subject to the dust and chaos of demolition at the beginning of the summer tourist season and perhaps the summer construction of a large new building. And in consequence the Summerland Community Arts Council (all volunteers, with one paid coordinator) and its associated groups will be subject to a minimum of two moves in an unknown time frame.
Although the municipality is offering the SCAC support for rental and upgrading in another downtown building, most of the moving and renovation work will be done by volunteers, and the SCAC has no guarantee of continued support from the next municipal council elected this fall.
In the 1990s, it took several years to convince the municipality that the former city hall would be a great building for community arts.
For the last 16 years in this building the SCAC has provided programs for adults and children, a gallery for artists and viewers, and a centre for the gathering of various associated groups.
To my knowledge, the SCAC receives grant monies from a number of granting sources, such as B.C. Gaming and B.C. Arts Council, which require the SCAC to submit annual applications for the funds.
Also, SCAC requires artists to submit portfolios in September for the next year’s gallery shows. The imminent move has thrown many long term plans into disarray, and the volunteers are scrambling to meet the moving deadline with an optimism that astounds me.
They are even hopeful that the move will offer greater access to the citizens of the town, despite the knowledge that this site is not permanent.
I commend the Arts Council for their positive response in the face of an indeterminate future.
The municipal council has a cavalier approach to a group that has continually fulfilled its mandate on a well managed limited budget.
The volunteers that support arts and culture in this community deserve better. And Summerland citizens deserve a full accounting in regard to the real estate decision that municipal council has made.
Heather S. Ross