MERRITT — If all goes according to plan, Merritt will get itself a $5.3-million performing arts theatre without the need to go to a referendum.
Rick Hodson, director of the Nicola Valley Community Theatre Society, told the TNRD board Thursday (June 15, 2017) the proposed complex would include three 103-seat movie theatres and a 274-seat performing arts theatre.
The society has raised $267,000 so far in promises and cash, and is hoping for a $3.7-million grant from the Rural Dividend Fund based on special circumstances due to the closure of the Tolko sawmill and loss of 203 direct jobs.
He said if the Rural Dividend Fund comes through, the project is definitely a go. The group will also apply to the Federal Cultural Spaces program for about $633,000 with matching donations from the broader community.
Hodson said the downtown core of Merritt is stagnating and in need of revitalization, and there’s no traffic downtown after stores close.
The society already owns land worth $300,000 that’s suitable for a 14,000 sq. ft. building in the downtown core.
The next step is to raise about $141,000 for structural, mechanical, electrical and acoustical designs.
He asked the TNRD to consider putting $100,000 toward the project.
“This project has the potential to revitalize the community,” Hodson said in his presentation.
The TNRD has a practice of not approving funding requests at the same meeting, in order to provide time for consideration. Director Randy Murray said he and Director Herb Graham, who represent the electoral areas in the Merritt area, support the project and will come forward with a proposal later.
I confirmed that the project appears to be eligible for federal gas-tax funding. I’m interested in that point, as one possibility might be for interested electoral areas and municipalities to pool some of their gas-tax allotment to provide a contribution.
That would also avoid concerns about asking the City of Kamloops to contribute, after taxpayers turned down a proposal for a performing arts centre in Kamloops.