Sunday, July 15, 2007

Dodi Morrison: City misusing its resources

The following appeared in the July 15, 2007, edition of the Western News:

Recently Mayor Kimberley wrote a letter to the editor explaining how prohibitively expensive it would be to retain the auditorium and gymnasium. I’m sure he hoped this would convince us of the immediate necessity of contributing to a new concert hall (on land donated by the city I am told.)

Of course an equally convincing letter could have been written if he had wanted to defend not taking those buildings down. He mentioned that although our taxes would go up for keeping those buildings, we need fear nothing as the new concert hall would be built with money taken from “reserves.”

“Reserves?” Did anyone know about these? Where were they when we begged for affordable housing? Where was the land now so available — I’m told — for the concert hall? Offers made regarding low-cost housing were turned down. I am reminded of the old story of Marie Antionette when told that the people had no bread —”Let them eat cake!” she replied.

Not long ago a short article in the local paper told of the city of Trail’s dilemna. Apparently there is a lack of affordable housing in both Trail and Rossland. So much so that the nearby ski resort of Red Mountain was having great difficulty finding people to clean its rooms. I wonder where all the new occupants of the condos going up around us will find a cleaning lady? And that is just one of the town’s many services that will be needed by those seniors.

But back to those two buildings. How many people realize that the new school will have no auditorium? Only an activity room, with bleachers. I know from a friend in another such school in another city how frustrating that can be — and how much confusion is caused whenever an event takes place. Our present auditorium has been well used by our gifted music teachers — not only the one at Pen High but other schools’ too. And with some cosmetic repairs it could last for another 50 years. The main part is still solid. Just the stage area needs replacing, and rooms added for dressing rooms, toilets and a hall. The concert hall in Metaline Falls is part of a school far older, which was revived and made into a cultural centre. The Falls is a tiny town (just across the border from Yak) but we met people there from Colville and Spokane at one of its good concerts. “All this talk of nostalgia and sentiment is insulting!” one long- time concert goer said to me.

Well, the mayors have spoken — and it was quite an announcement. Let’s hope they will now bully the necessary people, give us the leadership we crave and get things going.

It can’t be too soon for me — I have learned a whole other vocabulary I never expect to use — cuss words completely new to me! Masses of people really think council has lost its head over this.

And no doubt we’ll get the lovely new concert hall in about 10 years’ time anyway. By then we will need both halls. But meanwhile wouldn’t it be nice if we pulled together for once and saved a whole lot of great events? As for more parking — when what we need is to get more cars off the road — that’s insane. The school board and teachers should start getting kids to walk. Bribe them — have a competition — offer big rewards — whatever it takes. The traffic is appalling and the last thing we need to do is encourage it to get worse.

I wonder how many know that when Jeff Hyslop performed here he made an impassioned plea for the auditorium? Even though he is now in New York, he knew its value.

John Cornelissen: Bulldozing bad business

The following appeared in The Herald and the 13 July, 2007, edition of the Western News:

I grew up in a home that was over a century old. Although heavily damaged during the Second World War, it was repaired and the building may well last another century. The motto “waste not want not,” was firmly brought home to me. It is paramount and ought to be adhered to buildings with a number of years of remaining useful life, on which replacement costs are many times its upgrading costs.

Reading Mayor Kimberley’s letter justifying bulldozing the buildings, one wonders how much credibility it should be given. He talked about doing away with the buildings as soon as it was suggested to save them and long before any analysis was made. The taxpayers have not been presented with a detailed cost-benefit analysis. For instance:

A) Why generate the $ 1.2 million to $1.5 million borrowing costs for renovation with a one per cent property tax increase while the borrowing of $ 2.5 million for the cemetery upgrade results in a 0.95 per cent tax increase?

B) Where is the off-setting factor of the income generated by the gymnasium and auditorium against the operation and maintenance cost? What about operation and maintenance cost for the new performing arts centre?

C) What will be the impact on property taxes for the estimated $30 million cost of a new performing arts centre?

D) The statement “monies for the purchase of land for a performing arts centre site would be taken out of the capital reserve fund and therefore would not require a property tax increase” is grossly misleading. It means the money is not available for other capital projects and therefore will be borrowed and become a burden on the taxpayers!

The mayor told us that the contract of the event centre that was awarded would cost the taxpayer a cup of coffee. How wrong did that statement proved to be? Are figures being twisted for the mayor’s pet projects?

I suggest we hold a reverse petition borrowing bylaw for the upgrading of the Penticton gymnasium and auditorium similar to the other reverse petitions for the wellness centre and the cemetery upgrade.

In closing the mayor talks about the safety aspect of school traffic onto Eckhardt Avenue. Why not follow through with Ed Bonthoux’s recommendation and subscribed to by a former mayor that school generated traffic ought to be directed to Jermyn Avenue.