Monday, March 3, 2008

Jack Ambler: Buildings in need of community support

The following appeared in the 02 Mar 08 edition of the Penticton Western News:

The debate concerning the Pen High auditorium and gym has been going on for some time now with numerous letters to the editor that speak of the continued usefulness of both buildings. Many of these letters have been written by well-respected members of our community and the views expressed are undoubtedly well thought out and mostly factual.

Dave Shunter’s recent letter was informative, with very compelling reasons to upgrade and keep the buildings for future use. Previously, many performers have written letters indicating that the auditorium is still an excellent venue in which to perform.

The Penticton Western News story of Feb. 22, entitled “Officials state case for school buildings demolition” was anything but informative and it really provided very little insight as to why the buildings must be demolished. It was the typical spin that politicians use to cloud an issue when simple common sense is being ignored.

School board chair Larry Little is quoted as saying “Given the proper information they’ll (I assume he means the taxpayers) be able to make an informed decision.” OK Mr. Little, give us the information. Tell us what the cost benefits will be to destroy two taxpayer-funded buildings that have been and still are a valuable asset to the community.

Don’t simply tell us that there are other facilities to take the place of these buildings, tell us in terms of dollars and cents how the taxpayer will benefit from hauling these buildings away to the landfill. Tell us why spending $30 million to construct a replacement theatre is more cost effective than spending $2 million to upgrade existing buildings which will provide a multipurpose facility.

Tell us why, not too many years ago, a very large sum of taxpayers’ money was spent to upgrade the gym while at the same time the school board was pursuing ministry approval for the construction of a new school and ultimately the destruction of a newly upgraded building. The half million or so of taxpayers’ dollars that you spent for the gym renovations is now going to be buried in the landfill.

“We haven’t done the greatest job, the city and the school board, in renting out our facilities.” How true. Both Mr. Kimberley and Mr. Little should tell the taxpayer why they are “not doing the greatest job” in all aspects of their civic duties. Were they not elected because they presented the best option at the time to manage the affairs of the city and the school board?

Maybe if they were doing their best to rent city and school board properties, the apparent problem of finding $200,000 per year for maintenance of the auditorium and gym would not be an issue. By my calculation, the $200,000 annual maintenance costs work out to approximately $5.72 per person in Penticton and much less if the cost were spread out throughout the regional district. This is not a large sum of money to pay each year for the privilege of keeping and using the auditorium and gym.

The local soccer club was very confident, and the city agreed, that they can cover the operating costs of their new facility and repay a rather large loan without the taxpayers’ help. Would proper management of the auditorium and gym not have the same result?

“… We’re looking at what’s in the best interests of our kids, and not so much the community …” Kids and schools are part of the community. The community includes everyone and everything within it and it is simply not reasonable to exclude the school board from decisions which have an impact on the entire community.

The school board says it is the city’s responsibility now and the city says it is the school board’s decision. It is time that Mr. Kimberley and Mr. Little quit passing the buck and work together on this project to make the community proud.

“We’re not eliminating anything, that’s another misconception.” I guess we’ll all see what kind of a misconception this is when we drive down Eckhardt Avenue this fall and see that two large buildings have been eliminated in favour of a parking lot.

Jack Ambler

1 comment:

Anita Fashler (nee Kvestich) said...

BEST letter on the subject I have read: concise, accurate, asking the right questions using common sense and not being worried about political correctness. You should get this republished in the Herald this week.
BTW I am a Pen-Hi '71 grad who performed in that auditorium and played b-ball in that gym. I have also written 2 editorials for the Herald on the subject, one Nov 04 and the latest Jul 08. Even though I live in Vancouver now I am passionate about retaining these buildings. Good luck!!
Anita Fashler (nee Kvestich)