By Cole Parkinson
M.D. of Taber council has received a letter pertaining to the area’s interest in the proposed Taber Performing Arts Centre and the support is very slim within council chambers.
MNP has been in active talks with the Town of Taber about conducting a feasibility and viability study for the potential arts centre.
Funding was a major issue when discussing the possibility of bringing this type of building to Taber.
“I think it would be wise to try and seek funding as a cornerstone for this before you plunge head on into it and fund it all locally. It’s important when you get into a project of this scale and scope to try and access additional funding,” said Derrick Krizsan, CAO for the M.D. of Taber. “Capital costs represent over a life cycle of a building like this about 40 per cent total life cycle cost. The community is going to have significant challenges with funding and operating costs as a result. I think you have to develop a plan to access as much external funding as you can.”
Councillors haven’t heard much support from their divisions in terms of getting behind and building the new centre.
Questions about how much it would bump up tax rates were a major issue within each community.
“I asked this question around my area when talk about this was being looked at a year or two ago and I can say not one person in my division said that they were in favour of this going ahead,” said Bob Wallace, councillor for Division 5.
“So I can speak fairly confident for my area that I have not heard one positive comment that they want their tax dollars to go towards this.”
Many of the councillors echoed the same kind of reactions from within their areas.
“For our area, my division is kind of the same as Bob’s. As far as these kinds of things, the biggest majority of rate payers are heading for Lethbridge. It’s natural because of the size of the city and what’s offered there. Although I’m not against these sorts of things, I think it doesn’t serve our area as well,” said Duff Dunsmore, councillor for Division 6.
While the need for a new performing arts centre was questioned, some of the councillors brought up different options rather than constructing a completely new building.
One of the spots that was brought up was located right in Taber and has been around since the 1940s.
“Having conversations with some of the rate payers, looking at a partnership like the 1949 building of W.R. Myers that was supposed to be knocked down but now it’s going to stay. Now working with this school division and some of their partners would it be feasible to make that into a theatre and drama arts class for students? For the whole municipality? It would be a lot less operational costs and this would be used more than two or three times a year. I don’t know what Horizon school board’s plans are for the 1949 section of that building but it would be worth a conversation I think,” said Ben Elfring, councillor for Division 4.
Another school’s facilities was discussed as another option to host arts and entertainment types of events.
With the new additions to Barnwell School, the council discussed making use of their facilities moving forward.
“It might not be right inside the town but within the M.D. There is 170 seats up there, so let’s not build something that we aren’t going to need,” said Merrill Harris, councillor for Division 1. “We already got something five miles away that serves that purpose, it might not be the 300 seats that they have envisioned but we’re well over half way there.”
MNP was informed by the town to connect with the M.D. in order to get input on whether or not the centre would be something communities in the M.D. would want.
Councillors linked the proposal to what they have received in the past, yet it was backwards from what they want when they receive these types of propositions.
“Vauxhall is a perfect example when they come to build a major facility in Vauxhall, we say to the Vauxhall people go out and do your fundraising and gain your community support prior to coming to talk to us. Yet here in Taber it seems to be the other way around, they come to talk to us before they talk to their community. From my point, if the community hasn’t bought into this by funding 25 per cent of this in cash prior to coming to the municipalities then I think the community itself would say that this is not a viable option. It’s a little bit harsh, but I think the same rules need to apply in this county as they do in Barnwell and Vauxhall,” said Wallace.
Wallace added that the tax increase would be “enormous” and that those in favour of building a new centre would have a major effect on people in the M.D.
“Perhaps they should do that calculation of what the tax increase would be before they go forward with this because I think it would shock everybody.”