Smithers Council has put a $100,000 feasibility study for the proposed Bulkley Valley Arts and Culture Centre on the back burner.
During last Tuesday’s council meeting, councillors couldn’t completely agree on how to move forward with the study.
The estimated $16 million Arts and Culture Centre is proposed to go in Central Park and could house the Smithers Library, art gallery, Bulkley Valley Museum and/or the community radio station.
As for whether or not Smithers needs to have a centre with such a large price tag, Mayor Taylor Bachrach said, “I’m not sure that we do.”
The study was to look at how the library, visitors centre, museum and community radio station could all work out of one location with three concepts and locations around town.
The goal of the project, as discussed by council, was to allow the expansion of services to keep up with public demand.
“What we heard from the community is residents and taxpayers want to be an active part of the discussion as well and that’s a message that we’ve heard loudly and clearly … we’re going to try to have some sort of larger town hall dialogue with residents in the community,” said Bachrach.
Comment forms submitted about the pre-feasibility study stressed the need to take another look.
“The costs are too high and taxes are already too high for most families.
“We all know that the estimated $16 million will jump to a much higher amount. We have a museum and we have a library and funds to upgrade those facilities should be spent. Use the Della Herman Theatre more … there are many days when it is empty,” one comment form read.
Another read “We have a vibrant and plentiful arts and cultural life in town. Having separate facilities helps to keep this scene spread over the entire town. The cost is far too much for the benefit.”
A total of 69 comment forms were submitted with nearly half being opposed to the three concept plans and selecting no option.
Mayor Bachrach believes many of those comments are in response to the $16 million price tag and the way that it was structured citing that number is essentially a “wild guess”.
“The public’s feedback has been mixed, if you look at the forms that were filled out, there are some people who are wholeheartedly supportive and have specific feedback on how they want it to look or how they want Central Park to be planned and there are other people who say this just isn’t a priority and we don’t want to see our taxes go up,” Bachrach said.
Coun. Bill Goodacre also expressed concern on how some of the service providers such as the library need to get working on expanding services. He said the library has been battling for more space for nearly a decade.
Goodacre has made it known before for not including the Office of the Wet’suwet’en in the plans for the B.V. Arts and Culture Centre.
“We’re a diverse community and some people don’t see further investment in those facilities being a priority – our job as council is to facilitate that community conversation and at some point to make tough decisions,” Bachrach said.
After a discussion that spanned nearly an hour, council agreed more discussion is needed before agreeing to the feasibility study.
They will be holding a committee meeting Aug. 22 at 5 p.m. to further discuss the pre-feasibility study.
“We do take affordability seriously and we’re going to come up with a plan that is within reach of our community,” Bachrach said.