By Nikki Jamieson
During their regular July 18 meeting, Taber town council met with a delegation from the Performing Arts Centre Committee, to continue to discuss a potential federal grant.
At their last council meeting on June 27, council had tabled a motion to support the application for the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund Grant until they heard from PACC about their fundraising plans and support from the community. A PACC delegation returned to continue to discuss the application for the grant.
On behalf of the PACC delegation, Ryan Torrie explained that they were hoping that both the town and Municipal District of Taber would each donate $1 million. In addition to the grant, the committee feels that they would be able to fundraise the remaining amount.
“We had a fundraising committee put together — similar to the spray park, but on a bigger scale, bigger donors — plans to pull this off,” said Torrie. “We will be selling naming rights, possibly to the building, rooms, theatres, chairs and so on.”
With the naming rights, along with social media campaigns and the fundraising network in the community, he is “confident” that they can raise enough money to build the facility.
The proposed 304-seat facility is expected to cost approximately $6.5 million to build. If PACC successful applies for and receives the grant, it would cover up to half of the total cost, bringing it down to $3.25 million.If the M.D. and the town each donate $1 million, the total cost is brought down to $1.25 million, which will be raised through fundraising efforts by the committee. While some donors have expressed interest, none have committed a dollar amount yet.
“That’s the concern that we have. Like, it would be great to have it, and I’m supporting having it, it’s just the financial angle is going to be a little tough,” said Jack Brewin, town councillor.
“I hope you can make something work.”
Town councillor Laura Ross-Giroux, who is a member of PACC, spoke in in its defence, saying that in light of the ACT situation, they are being very careful when approaching cost and fundraising, and want to make sure everything is in order before they start a massive fundraising effort.
“But I also have to mention, that applying for this grant,we need to do this. But if we were to be awarded the grant, unless we have a viability study, excetera, in place, we can always turn down the grant,” said Ross-Giroux, adding there has been interest in the community over the project. “We want to ensure we can do this in the best way w can, I have no doubt that we can cover the — not the shortfall — but the performing arts committee’s share of the grant. I’m sure we can fundraise for that, no problem.”
Currently, the committee is waiting on the results of a viability study, which will help them determine things such as for operational costs of the facility.
“We are waiting on a viability study, we don’t want to jump into something that is not viable,” said Torrie. “That was something that was recommended, I think, at town council by our committee.”
“It is kind of unfortunate that the viability study is not available yet,” said Henk DeVlieger, mayor of the town of Taber. “You don’t even know if it is viable, and you want to make some commitments, and its kind of chicken in the egg here.”
“It’s very unfortunate that its waited until the last minute for a viability study to be done. All of a sudden, someone isn’t sure it’s viable, obviously, because a viability study has been asked for,” said Randy Sparks, town councillor. “We’ve been asked to go for a grant for 50 per cent, which the town is on the hook for for $3 million on this. We haven’t heard anything for months and months and months, on how your group is going to raise this money, and going by, ‘Yes, I support it’, means not to much to me.
“I would hate to be given this grant and deny it, because you can forget about ever getting another one.”
While some town councillors appear to balk at the price tag, especially as the project comes during the current recession with a lack of viewable plans or viability study, others feel that the study isn’t necessary needed to prove it’s viable, as Taber’s unique position in the middle of Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Brooks gives it an economic advantage.
“We’ve already identified ourselves as being strategically placed,” said Joe Strojwas, town councillor. “We don’t have a mini-conference centre that this facility would fill in, and we can tap into a lot of resources. So one it got running, it could be a tremendous asset to the economic advantage to the community as a whole. Not only Taber itself, but the M.D. and surrounding communities.”
PACC had announced that they were commissioning the study a year ago, but as it hasn’t been completed yet, council is hesitating to give the go-ahead to apply for the grant.
Torrie pointed out to council that nearly every community in Alberta has a theatre, and they are all viable. Additionally, by attaching it with the existing civic centre, it would allow the town to put on bigger fairs, show and conferences.
“I think other communities don’t have that benefit; they are more of just an arts theatre,” said Torrie, adding it would be better then those theatre because of the rage of activities it can be used for. “This would attract a lot of business from the M.D. of Taber and the community.”
“I can’t imagine it wouldn’t be viable.”
Ironically enough, the reason why the committee considered having the viability study done was due to the down-turn.
“The economy has been taking a dive, so that made it difficult, and trying to work, you know, in between the town of Taber and M.D. is tight, so we realize that’s a challenge” said Torrie. “At some point, there is like, ‘Well, you should have a viability study’, and so that was requested through the University of Lethbridge, and it’s been very slow to get a response from them. We don’t mean to not have that, it was ordered a long time ago, and we are just waiting for that, And we didn’t know the grant was going to pop up at this very moment.”
“We’re not looking for $50 donation, we’re looking for large ones. We’re obviously will have a lot of small ones too, but this isn’t going to happen with $50 donations. Its sort of hard to go out and request those donations when we neither don’t have a viability study that says it’s viable or a significant grant. No, if the grant is approved, we can go and say, ‘Hey, this is going to happen, will you be willing to donate’?”
The there is no dead line for the grant; it accepts applications on an o-going basis. But, the money will eventually be used up, so they would have to act fast to apply for it. De Vlieger requested that PACC to come back to the Aug. 15 council meeting with more concrete numbers.
“As council as a whole, we support this project. I cannot support this motion unless there is concrete numbers in here,” said Sparks. “I cannot commit to something or vote for something unless there is commitment numbers from you committee.”
Ross-Girox informed council that they have been waiting on the study since January and were not putting it off. They can’t guarantee when it could be done, but agreed with Torrie that they didn’t particularly ned the study, calling it “icing on the cake”.
Torrie then told council hold up is due to PACC wanting to have the study done through the University of Lethbridge, as their masters students can do it. However, they could hire a professional firm to conduct the study immediately , if council was willing to foot a considerably hefty bill.
“If there is another $20-40,000 available, we could get it done by a big firm very fast,” said Torrie, adding that they can get the numbers.”I don’t need a viability study, I don’t. If you as a committee, can say, ‘We can make this thing go’, thats the only viability study I need,” said Sparks. “Especially for $40,000.”
Council voted to table the motion for the next council meeting.
The proposed downtown theatre will be attached to the Northeast corner of the existing Community Centre Auditorium. According to PACC, benefits of this facility will include adding an attractive feature to the downtown core, augmenting the proposed Gateway Project, keeping operations and maintenance centralized for the town and the availability of parking on-site and in the nearby area.
The recommended design is a multi-use arts facility and conference centre featuring a theatre for plays, lectures and presentations, the existing auditorium for banquets, large gatherings and display areas, break out rooms for conference groups and performing teams, and the large and small ice for conference display space.