Culture isn’t being abandoned, but placed briefly on the backburner.
The Greater Vernon Advisory Committee insists it’s committed to pursuing a new art gallery and museum but a referendum must be delayed so costs can be scrutinized further.
“Everyone at the table supports arts and culture and wants to be moving forward,” said director Catherine Lord.
The prospect of a firm spring referendum has been shelved because a consultant says the total cost for two new facilities is $35 million, significantly higher than the original $17 million.
The difference is a result of the original proposal not including GVAC purchasing city land for the gallery and renovating the existing museum.
“Our estimates are very close (to the consultant’s),” said Dauna Kennedy Grant, Vernon Public Art Gallery executive director, of strict building costs only.
GVAC’s review will include the size of the proposed buildings.
“The gallery is currently at 6,000 square feet and the plan is based on 18,000 square feet. Is there any thought of reducing it?” said director Bob Fleming, adding that such a move would create savings.
The review will also consider possible revenue generating opportunities such as rentals.
Director Rob Sawatzky says any expenditure should be based on the community’s ability to cover debt servicing and operating costs.
“We need to keep this in context with everything else. There’s a $100 million master water plan. Also in the next year, we’re putting together an asset management plan for our aging infrastructure and there will be discussions on Civic Arena,” he said.
A borrowing referendum could still be held in the spring or in the fall of 2014, but GVAC staff point out that the legislative requirements that must be followed could make a spring vote tight.
Mike Macnabb, GVAC chairperson, insists that a proper process overrules timelines.
“We don’t want to get to no (vote). We want to get to yes and to get to yes, it will take more review,” he said.
Kennedy Grant says the VPAG can be flexible on the scope of its proposed project, and GVAC’s actions are welcome.
“We want to start the discussion. If we have to move the spring referendum, we have to be open to that,” she said.
One possibility is that a referendum could only deal with the art gallery and not the museum.
Based on the total $35 million price tag, Greater Vernon Museum president Rob Tupper says his organization may be willing to hold off on its plans.
“The art gallery has more pressing immediate needs,” he said.