Concept art for the proposed Library & Art Gallery. The Town is holding off on a mayoral byelection until it hears back on a $12.8 million grant application it made to the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program, a joint provincial-federal grant program which funds up to 90 per cent of project costs for towns between 5,000 and 25,000 people. (Photo courtesy Town of Smithers)

Province, feds reject Library-Art Gallery grant application

Project proponents adament the project is not dead, will seek alternative funding opportunities

The Province of B.C. and the federal government have have denied Smithers’ grant application for a new Library-Art Gallery.

Deputy mayor Gladys Atrill said she was “incredibly disappointed” the $12.8 million in funding under the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program didn’t come through.

“We really had a lot of hopes pinned on it and I think, in view of what’s going on now, it would have been a double boost to the community to have a capital project,” she said. “Even if it went more slowly, it would be good for people to have something and also, we just really need it, it’s time to replace the old library and the gallery is in a space that’s not adequate. We have lots of cultural places that need a boost, so it would be nice to take a crack at one or two of them, that’s for sure.”

Atrill said they did not get a specific reason for the denial, only that the program was “over-subscribed” and the Town’s bid was unsuccessful. She does not believe it is related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

READ MORE: Proponents of Library-Art Gallery project hope to write new chapter in Smithers cultural scene

While also disappointed the fundraising committee said in a press release this doesn’t mean the project is dead.

“This announcement definitely does not change our commitment to getting a new library space for our community, it just may take extra time to get there,” stated Wally Bergen, Chair of the Library Board.

The estimated cost of the project is 15.87 million. So far, the committee has raised close to $800,000 toward a goal of $1 million. Harvey and Corrie Tremblay have pledged to match that dollar for dollar. The Town would also have had to hold a referendum to approve borrowing its $1 million share.

“The announcement has not dampened our enthusiasm at all,” said Wendy Wright, Library Director. “We are just as passionate today as we were yesterday to provide a safe, efficient space with room to grow for all our patrons.”

READ MORE: Concept design for new $15.87 million library/art gallery project

Nicole Chernish, Art Gallery manager believes other funding opportunities will present themselves.

“While this grant did not work out, there are other options; we will definitely be looking at moving forward,” she said.

All that being said, no further work will be happening any time soon.

“The Library, Gallery and Town have shifted their immediate focus to supporting the community through the current pandemic crisis,” the April 3 release stated. “When circumstances permit, Town Council will determine the building project’s next steps and evaluate new funding opportunities.”

The committee is still accepting donations.

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