BEYOND THE HEADLINES: It’s time to move on

Public consultation is great but Civic Arena will still remain an old building

Obviously Vernon politicians are trying to appear transparent and responsive to the public, but to what end?

The future of Civic Arena is currently on hold as information on possible repurposing is gathered.

“We have told the public we would get input on this (refurbishing). It’s a public facility,” said Coun. Catherine Lord.

“There’s a great deal of public support for maintaining this building. We owe it to them to come back with something that says we can or can’t do this and here’s the cost,” added Coun. Scott Anderson.

Now going to residents makes some sense, particularly as many sports and community groups require space, while many people, including myself, have fond memories of cramming into the stands for Lakers games and other activities.

However, there are a few things to keep in mind, and primarily is the fact that consultants don’t come cheap. There will be a cost — about $40,000 — to compiling all of the relevant details council and the residents require to consider repurposing further.

Mayor Akbal Mund has suggested that actually hiring a consultant could be avoided because staff will bring back a report on the results of any bids received for the work and council may decide the process isn’t worth it. However, there’s also a cost involved in city employees issuing a request for proposals for a consultant and determining the price of a new facility. Nothing is free.

Ultimately if council enlists a consultant, the bills will keep adding up as public consultation will kick in — advertising, renting a hall and, of course, staff time.

What happens, in the end, if the overwhelming feedback from the public shows support for repurposing even if it costs $7 to $10 million? Is that a wise use of limited tax dollars, particularly compared to a brand new ice sheet at Kal Tire Place for $13 million?

Coun. Brian Quiring is adamant on what the next steps should be with Civic.

“We’re kicking a dead horse here. The building is failing — it’s end of life,” said Quiring, who is an architect.

He points to a report that classified the structure’s foundation as substandard in 1988

“We shouldn’t put any more time and energy into it. We should knock it down,” said Quiring.

It’s a fate Mund also seems resigned to even though he raised his hand for possibly investigating refurbishment.

“I’d love to keep it but it looks like it may not be able to be done,” he said.

Casting emotions and memories aside, Civic is old and tired, and no amount of cash is going to change that.

It could also be that Civic’s departure creates opportunities for a neighbourhood that is clearly in transition and could use a clear focus. As an example, remember all of the lobbying to save the former Fulton school in Polson Park but look what that demolition did to open up the park and add new amenities.

Vernon council has been moving towards more public engagement on issues like the budget, and that deserves significant praise. But going to residents on everything isn’t a good use of resource and that’s certainly the case with Civic.