Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Update: SONG meets with the school board

A handful of SONG members met with the SD67 school board on Monday, May 14th, 2007, to present a case for saving the Pen-Hi auditorium and gym. An account of the meeting appeared in the Western News:

Plea to save Pen High buildings unlikely to sway board

Western News Staff
May 16 2007

A thorough list of why and how Penticton Secondary’s north gym and auditorium should remain in the community was presented to the school board on Monday, but to-date the district still intends to move ahead with their demolition plans.

About a dozen supporters of keeping the buildings intact filed into the Okanagan Skaha board meeting to plead their case to trustees, and they came armed with a litany of support letters, a petition 600 signatures strong in addition to some empirical evidence for keeping the structures up and running.

Dr. Sandy Congram addressed the board and outlined the group dubbed Save Our North Gym and Auditorium’s proposal. Leaving ownership of the facilities in the hands of the district, Congram proposed that the city lease and manage the recreational space and mirror what is being done successfully in several other communities throughout the province. According to Congram, both facilities are intrinsic parts of the community and, at this juncture, it would be imprudent to remove them, especially when it’s clear they won’t be replaced now that funds are tied up by projects like the South Okanagan Event Centre.

One of the key aspects of the groups proposal was a financial analysis by Greyback Construction Ltd. and Ron Mason. According to the evaluation, everything from maintenance, to upgrades of the building would tally up to approximately $1.14 million.

Noting that the funds needed for the project are minor in comparison to what would be needed to re-build the facilities, Congram said initial planning meetings that were held three years ago didn’t reflect the issues that are present today. “This is a matter of political will and looking at what we will need in the community,” she said. “It’s wasteful to tear the buildings down — we need them.”

Although trustees and district staff listened attentively during Congram’s presentation, school board chair Larry Little didn’t move from their original assertions. However, because of community interest Little said the district will take another look at the options. “We are still firm that it doesn’t suit our educational purposes, but we are going to explore some site options,” said Little.

Little highlighted four non-negotiable items that the district will keep mindful of if the city does decide to support SONG’s proposal for funding. “We need to maintain student safety, a bus in and out area, green space and adequate parking,” he said. Little also said that it was re-assuring to have contact with the group. Referring to the Greyback Construction cost analysis Little said the information will be taken seriously. “It’s a good document, there’s some substantial information in there,” he said, adding that the district is still waiting from a decision from the city.


Anonymous said...

Regarding auditorium:

Adequate green (artists changing rooms), wash rooms for both male & female performers and audience is a must. Lecture & reception rooms also needed. The Pen High kitchen and class rooms have been used in the past. They will be gone.

A foyer, so that people wouldn't have to stand in the hall like school kids, also a must.

A more sloped floor and larger chairs for audience would be appreciated.

A wider & bigger stage to accommodate Symphony is a must. At least at the Cleland the musicians have a little more room.

Michael Brydon said...

The previous comment makes some good points about the shortcomings of the Pen-Hi auditorium. I find this information useful because, to this point, I have had difficulty determining precisely why the Facilities Committee of the performing arts council are so adamant that they need a new facility. This helps me a bit.

Of course, the big issue here is not "need", but whether the municipal, provincial, and federal governments are willing to fund a new facility. My personal view, after looking at the business plans for the Events Centre is that the $17M capital cost overrun is just the beginning. My guess is that the city will be facing a large annual operating deficit as well. Unfortunately, they are budgeting for a large operating surplus, so the net impact on city finances will be huge.