By Herald on September 22, 2020.
Advocates for a new $100-million performing arts centre for downtown Lethbridge have been given a little more time to come up with some options as to how to continue the project given the City’s current fiscal realities.
City council had originally intended to make a decision on whether or not to remove $6.8 million in funding for a detailed plan of the project from the current Capital Improvement Project cycle. With no provincial or federal grants for the $100-million project available in the near future, the performing arts centre steering committee admitted to council at last week’s Community Issues Committee meeting they could not go ahead with the detailed plan as previously intended to get the arts centre to a shovel-ready stage.
They also hoped council would allow the project to retain its CIP funding and redirect it toward other more attainable goals like site selection.
Some on council felt, as with the Southern Alberta Art Gallery expansion which was cancelled earlier this year after advocates submitted a different plan than previously seen, the change in purpose for the money meant the scope of the project had changed, and therefore it should be removed from this funding cycle. The idea was that advocates should then apply again for funding encompassing the new scope in the next CIP cycle which starts in 2022.
Coun. Jeffrey Carlson instead introduced a motion to refer the matter back to the performing arts centre steering committee to come up with viable options for council to consider for the Nov. 2 regular meeting, earning the project a reprieve from decision this week.
Council voted unanimously to give the steering committee more time to bring more options forward by then.
Mayor Chris Spearman said some on council felt they needed that extra information in order to make the best decision possible where the performing arts centre is concerned, and that did not mean councillors had made a decision one way or another yet on keeping or cancelling the project.
“What we wanted to clarify was if this ($6.8 million) was to go ahead, what’s it going to go on?” Spearman stated. “Is there a clear plan? We had funded detailed drawings to make it shovel-ready, and you don’t want to have those drawings done five or 10 years before construction. So we need to make sure there is a clear plan with a timeline, and a clear expectation as to how many dollars are expected from the City of Lethbridge. And how many dollars will be coming from elsewhere.”
Performing Arts Centre Advocacy Group spokesperson, Dianne King, said advocates of the project would make good use of the extra time granted by council to bring forth that clear plan council is seeking.
“I am pleased the decision was not made today to discontinue the project,” she said, “and I am hopeful we will be able to come back with some excellent recommendations that indeed council will support. The advocacy group, the performing arts steering committee, and the Allied Arts Council have all been working purposely toward seeing us continue on this project. And our goal is to certainly see it achieved.”
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