About 100 attended a public meeting Oct. 19 on the proposed plan for an arts and culture centre in Smithers. (Chris Gareau photo)

Library board proposes using old plan for arts & culture centre

Arts & culture centre phased plan has new building with library and art gallery by Veteran’s Park.

Smithers Public Library board chair Wally Bergen suggested money can be saved in planning for a new arts and culture centre by using an eight-year-old plan for a new library.

He made the suggestion at a public meeting last Thursday on the proposed building(s), which council presented to do in phases after a pre-feasibility study suggested the budget of $10 million was about $6 million short. The original plan was to create space at Central Park at Main Street and Highway 16 for the Smithers Art Gallery, Bulkley Valley Museum, Smithers District Chamber of Commerce Visitors Centre, and library.

“We’ve had to reiterate what our original intention was, which is to deal with some old buildings which are too small,” Smithers Mayor Taylor Bachrach.

“So the scope of the pre-feasibility study was limited to those organizations that had a connection to the Town and that had rented or occupied space that was owned by the Town.”

Now the phases plan would see a new building housing the library and art gallery at the end of Main Street by Veteran’s Park. The next phases would create space at Central Park at an undetermined time for the museum and visitors centre.

The estimated cost of the next step towards building at Veteran’s Park, a feasibility study, is $100,000. Bergen sees an opportunity for savings by using the library’s last $100,000-plus plan for a new building and adding on space for the art gallery. That plan estimated the cost for just the library to be $4.2 million, plus $1.8 million for extending and changing infrastructure like streets and sewer, according to Bergen.

“It wasn’t going to be a dream-type building; it was going to be a building that was practical,” said Bergen as he listed off the library’s seven requirements in the last plan.

The other six were it had to meet a northern climate, be energy efficient, be operationally efficient, be built using local materials, use local expertise, and be repairable and maintainable by local people.

Wet’suwet’en design was also included in the architectural concept.

Other concerns and ideas were brought up by the crowd: tax increase to pay for any loans if grants were not enough; performance space, especially for Wet’suwet’en cultural groups; and efficiency from sharing space between the library and gallery.

Representatives from the chamber of commerce and museum also pointed out the dire situations they were in.

This is especially true for the museum. Its artifacts are in storage conditions that lend themselves to theft and damage. Curator Kira Westby said the museum has no more room and has to turn away pieces of valley history.

Telkwa Mayor Darcy and Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako Director for Area A Mark Fisher were also there to say neither could see contributing to capital costs. Fisher did say he would look at helping with operational costs after a plan for the building was chosen.

Bulkley Valley Arts and Culture Centre

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The Smithers Public Library has a plan from about eight years ago that its board members believe can be used to save money on designing a new building beside Veteran’s Peace Park at the end of Main Street.

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