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Coming Up: April 8

Council meets Monday night at 6:30. The most interesting agenda items:

  • Performing Arts Center Storage Project- a recommendation for Council to provide initial funding for a community group storage space attached to the Performing Arts Centre in St. John Paul II Catholic School

  • Transit service to Stompede

  • A potential bid on the 2022 Alberta Winter Games

  • A tax on downtown businesses to fund the Downtown Association

Following is more information and my take on agenda items.

As always, any mistakes or opinions belong to me and me alone, not to Council or City staff.

While I express my current views below, I always go into meetings ready to listen and with an open mind. I learn new information and participate in debate. This always informs and sometimes changes how I vote on issues.

If you would like to watch the meeting or read any of its supporting material for yourself, you can do so by clicking here. The City will post the highlights of Council’s decisions here.

Performing Arts Facility Storage Project

A Performing Arts Centre is attached to St. John Paul II Catholic School. This is a state of the art facility which features a 350 seat black box theatre. It is intended to be used by the community, not just by the school. This Performing Arts Centre is being managed by Grande Prairie Live Theatre. GPLT is an independent, community based non-profit that manages all bookings in this theatre.

This year, this Performing Arts Centre is on track to be used by community groups 130 times. This is in addition to school usage of the space. Community use of this space is expected to grow in future years.

While this is a great facility, it does present one large challenge to community groups: lack of storage.

The Catholic School Board and Grande Prairie Live Theatre are hoping to change this by creating a 2400 sq ft, climate-controlled facility to store sets, props, and equipment in. The Performing Arts Centre already has adequate storage for school classes and productions. This new storage facility would be for the use of community based (ie: non-school) productions.

Despite this Performing Arts facility being built for community use, municipalities have not contributed to its construction. For that reason, the City and County were approached to fund the new storage space.

The County has been asked to contribute $250,000 to this project. My understanding is that it has not made a decision about this request.

In October, the Community Living Committee received a request for the City to fund the majority of this storage project. Committee directed administration to work with the school board to come back with a cost assessment. On March 26, Committee was presented with an updated report. The project is now estimated to have a total cost of $800,000 - $1,000,000.

Committee was also informed that the City currently has $863,113 in capital funds set aside for sport and cultural projects which are undertaken in partnership with school boards.

There did not seem to be any appetite at Committee to have the City become a majority funder of this storage facility. However, there was an appetite to provide some funding. The hope expressed at committee was that if the City made an initial funding commitment, it could be leveraged to secure other grants or private donations to fund the majority of this project.

Committee has recommended that Council approve $250,000 be allocated to this project, contingent on a minimum of $250,000 being raised from other sources. This City funding would come from the capital funds mentioned above, meaning that it would have no impact on taxes or other approved projects.

There is good argument for the City to have some involvement in this project. Theatre and other cultural events are important to our community. Some of the benefits they provide:

  • Entertainment and education for residents

  • Social connections for cast, crew, and audience members

  • Opportunities for youth and adults to develop artistic, technical, and business skills

  • Reason for people to visit and spend money in our community

  • Incentive for people to move to and set down roots in our community

Having a Performing Arts Centre of this size and quality greatly enhances our cultural landscape. It might be appropriate for the City to contribute some capital dollars to it.

At the same time, there are other priorities in our community that also could use funding. I’m especially concerned with housing needs in our community requiring increased investment. Council is also working to reduce taxes.

As much as I think this project will enhance our community and is a type of enhancement which it is appropriate for municipalities to support, I don’t know if it is a priority for me at this time.

I don’t know yet whether or not I will be voting in support of funding this project. And if I do support funding it, I don’t know if $250,000 is appropriate or if less support should be given.

So I’d love to hear from you: should Council provide initial funding for this project? If so, why? If not, why not? And if Council does support funding it, what amount are you comfortable with?

UPDATE AS OF APRIL 9th: This request was not approved by Council. I was one of the votes against it. I talked to a number of people who run local theater productions. They didn’t know details about this project, and I could not answer questions they had. This made me uncomfortable with the request. However, if this request is brought forward in the future with broader community support and with more design details, I’d be supportive of Council considering this request again. In theory this project makes sense to me. I just cannot support it at this time.

Transit Service to Stompede

Last year, the City provided transit service to the Stompede.

This service had a total ridership of 651 over 5 days. Ridership on Wednesday and Thursday was slow (an average of 4.6 riders/hour). However, weekend use was high. On Friday and Sunday it had 15.8 riders/hour. Saturday saw 26.3 riders/hour.

Council has received a recommendation to approve transit service to the 2019 Stompede. It would only run Friday – Sunday. Under provincial rules, riders cannot be charged for the service: it would be complimentary. This would cost ~$2500.

I intend to support this recommendation. Stompede is an important event in our community. It is important to me that those without access to personal vehicles be able to access it. Additionally, a challenge with the event is congestion on the road getting in and out of Evergreen Park. If City transit can lessen the cars involved, it will make the event both safer and more enjoyable.

2022 Alberta Winter Games

Our region has received a request from the province to bid on the 2022 Alberta Winter Games.

This was discussed at the Regional Recreation Committee made up of elected representatives from the City, County, MD of Greenview, Sexsmith, Wembley, Beaverlodge, and Hythe. The Committee had no clear consensus on whether a bid should be submitted. However, it did agree that our respective Councils should discuss the possibility.

If we do wish to submit a bid, a Letter of Intent needs to be sent in this month. This letter does not commit us to anything, but is a necessary first step to bidding on the Games.

The Regional Recreation Committee has asked the City to submit a letter of intent to leave the possibility of hosting these games open. It has also asked all regional Councils to consider whether or not they wish to move forward with a bid.

At this time, I do not support us submitting a bid. While the Games would undoubtedly bring great benefit to our region, I think we might be able to derive more benefit by focusing on more, smaller events.

That being said:  I’m very open to discussion on this topic and having my mind changed. I also think that, even if the City does not partner, other municipalities in our region should have the right to submit a bid of their own. Therefore, I will be supporting the submission of a Letter of Intent to enable this conversation to continue.

Downtown Business Improvement Area Tax

The Downtown Association exists to promote, beautify, improve, and advocate for downtown. It is funded through a special tax on downtown properties.

The Association elects its own board, which produces an annual budget. This budget is approved by Council. The City then collects taxes from all properties within the Downtown Improvement Area (DIA) to fund it.

This year, the City needs to collect $394,238 to fund the Downtown Association. This is a slight increase from the $388,330 collected in 2018. Additionally, the value of downtown properties has declined by 2.4%. This means that the DIA tax rate needs to increase slightly. It was 1.8% in 2018. The proposed 2019 rate is 1.87%.

On Monday, Council will be debating bylaws necessary to collect this tax. I will be voting in favour of them: I’ve heard no concerns about the Downtown Association budget, and Council approved it last month.

That’s what is on our agenda for Monday. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

You can comment below. Or, you can contact me at or 780-402-4166. I'm happy to talk online or over the phone. I'm also always willing to setup a time to meet for coffee.

We also always have great conversation in the GP Round Table group on Facebook.

After Council meeting, you will be able to find highlights posted by the City here.

Thanks for reading!