Future of St. Andrew's on the Square up in the air between city, Kamloops heritage group

One of the most well-known churches in Kamloops is falling under the city's administration, but the group running it for 20 years is hoping the decision will be reversed.

St. Andrew's on the Square is moving from the Kamloops Heritage Society's care to the City of Kamloops, according to a press release, along with the attached Gaglardi Square. The society has cared for the site since 1998, when it was restored; the site is leased from the city.

"The society, they approached the City of Kamloops five years ago to ask for this transition to happen," says deputy mayor Mike O'Reilly. "They wanted five years so that it would be as seamless as possible."

This summer city council made the decision not to renew the lease with the society at a closed council meeting (issues involving contracts and real estate are often decided on in a closed meeting and released to the public at a later date). The society received a letter in August notifying them that as of March 1, 2020, the city would be taking control of the site.

However, the society says while the idea was put forward, it was never agreed upon. The only record they have of it is from a meeting between the society and city staff four years ago.

HeritageMinutesThe Kamloops Heritage Society says this is the only time the idea is mentioned in their records, from Aug. 15, 2016. (via Brendan Kergin/provided by Kamloops Heritage Society)

"That was a proposal that was made by someone. It was never voted on. It was never followed through," says society president Peggy Broad. "No one asked to be phased out."

She says several members of the current board served back then, and no one recalls agreeing to the phasing out of the society in the site's operations.

"It was a suggestion, and it was in the minutes of the meeting, but it wasn't voted on," she says. "It got misconstrued."

O'Reilly says the issue was thoroughly looked at from the city's perspective, including going through committees before it was presented to council.

Broad says while the city staff the society has dealt with have been fine, there's been consistent communication issues with the city. O'Reilly disagrees.

"From everything we've seen from staff... the communication has been there and adequate," he tells KamloopsMatters.

Now, Broad is hoping the decision will be reversed. Since the August letter, the board has had a meeting with two city councillors, where the society shared their side of things and the information they have.

Broad says information was shown to the councillors that they hadn't seen before, and hopes they look at the matter again.

"We're hoping the public will at least have an opportunity to have a say in this," she adds, pointing out the society has already received "hundreds of emails" supporting them.

O'Reilly says while he believes the best future for the site is under the city's care, the decision could be reversed if two councillors who voted for the change decided to reopen the issue.

If it's not reversed, the society will have to move out of St. Andrew's next spring. Broad says she's unsure what they'll do at that point.

"Kamloops Heritage Society will hopefully go on and serve other groups in town," she says. "The contents of the building will go with us."

"Whether we get what we want it's hard to say, but we're going to try," she adds.

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