By Trevor Busch
With work toward the proposed construction of a new performing arts centre for the community effectively stalled, town council has dissolved the Performing Arts Centre Committee (PACC) in favour of creating a more comprehensive committee focused on arts and culture.
In mid-April, a meeting of the PACC was held in order to discuss the next steps for the committee and its members.
Quorum was unable to be reached, but Coun. Mark Garner was in attendance for the discussion along with PACC Chairman Doug Emek and CAO Cory Armfelt.
According to administration, the discussion concluded with the general agreement that the PACC be dissolved.
“We have had this Performing Arts Centre Committee for quite some time,” said Armfelt at town council’s June 10 meeting.
“Councillor Garner and I attended a meeting with the chairperson of that committee some time ago, and I really think it’s time to move forward with the dissolution of this committee, and as per council’s Strategic Plan, create another arts-and-cultural-oriented committee that has a bit of wider scope. In any event, with regards to the terms of reference, I think this one has seen its lifespan through.”
Following the findings of the Feasibility and Viability Study which was presented to council in 2018, the PACC has not come up with any further options to explore.
The committee was officially struck in 2014.
After a number of investigations, research with stakeholders, Canada 150 grant applications, discussions with council, and the final study from MNP LLP, the PACC has nothing further for council’s consideration at the present time.
“It is administration’s recommendation that this committee be dissolved as… it appears the committee and its work has come to its stopping point,” stated administration in its background to the decision.The committee is no longer meeting its Phase III Terms of Reference, and meeting quorum for the past three meetings the PACC has held has not been successful.”
Due to the proximity to the downtown core and the compatibility of shared use space, a physical location conjoined to the existing Taber Community Centre was eventually identified as the best possible site for the proposed facility.
As of June 2015, the total project cost was estimated at approximately $7 million.
MNP’s analysis concluded that a $7 million capital cost estimate was probably not realistic when factoring in inflation since 2015 and other issues that would drive construction costs (using 2018 as an example) into the range of $8.1 -$9.3 million.
“With current service levels, administration has a lack of time to be able to devote to a new phase of a PACC Terms of Reference or to research potential possibilities for performing arts in our community as such an initiative would require and deserve,” continued administration.
“The PACC has fulfilled their duties to investigate potential performing arts centres in Taber as prescribed by council. These potential projects and their subsequent investigations have not been successful.”
In the past, proposals and fundraising had focused on the Centre Court for the Arts, intended as a theatre facility after extensive renovation of the former courthouse, police station and library complex would be completed.
This project would eventually die on the order papers due to excessive costs and other considerations, with the town recently cancelling the lease, subdividing the lots and selling it to private ownership.
The PACC does not have term limits for its committee members, and the current volunteers have all served five years since the inception of the PACC.
Council has not budgeted any capital or operational funding for any type of performing arts centre in its upcoming budgets.
“Dissolving the committee will not stop future investigations into performing arts or other arts ventures in our community,” concluded administration.
“Dissolving this committee may provide council more flexibility in the future should they wish to create a more holistic approach to arts and culture in the community.”