Cultural costs create concern

Both the Vernon Public Art Gallery and the Greater Vernon Museum pushed Thursday for a spring referendum

Greater Vernon politicians are trying to determine how big of a hit taxpayers will tolerate.

Both the Vernon Public Art Gallery and the Greater Vernon Museum pushed Thursday for a spring referendum for new facilities. The Greater Vernon Advisory Committee has already made a commitment for a vote on a proposed sports complex.

“If they’re all bundled in one referendum, I don’t think the public will have an appetite for that,” said Mike Macnabb, GVAC chairperson, of a potential  $24 million price tag.

Staff will look into legislative timelines for holding a spring referendum and other upcoming capital works that could impact finances.

“Maybe water (upgrades) is a bigger need from parks, recreation and culture,” said Macnabb.

Director Bob Spiers also wants a sense of whether all potential projects should be on a single ballot or put before residents separately.

“What’s the chance of success (one referendum) or do you end up defeating all three?” he said.

While concerned about the cost, director Juliette Cunningham says the current condition of the museum and art gallery can’t be ignored.

“We’re in this mess because we didn’t have an arts and culture plan. We need to look at the big picture,” she said.

The Greater Vernon Museum would like a new facility from 23,0000 to 30,000-square-feet in size with climate control to preserve the artifacts.

“Our current facility is 45 years old,” said Ian Hawes, museum chairman, adding that it lacks space for exhibits and programs.

“We have all of these fascinating stories about our community and they’re in storage.”

Few details for a new museum have been developed but it could possibly cost upwards of $10 million. A location has also not been identified.

The Vernon Public Art Gallery has recommended $7 million for an 18,000-square-foot building with climate control and proper storage.

“The permanent collection is at risk in that (present) location,” said Tom Christensen, gallery spokesperson,  of water leaks and humidity.

“The gallery is the protector of our cultural heritage.”

Christensen expects a new facility would lead to expanded programs and exhibits and draw tourists.

“We see this as an opportunity to foster economic development and an opportunity to provide an improved community amenity,” he said.