Kamloops council sets date, question for performing arts centre referendum

Kamloops council has set a date for residents to have their democratic say in the new performing arts centre proposal.

A referendum on borrowing up to $45 million is scheduled for April 4, which will decide the fate of the downtown-Kamloops-based project. City council decided the date in today's council meeting.

In a report to council, administration suggested March 28 or April 4 as potential dates. The vote has to be on a Saturday, according to provincial laws. The report also pointed out spring break for School District 73 occurs March 16 to 20, which means families may be away March 14 or 21.

Administration stated March 7 would be too soon, as there wouldn't be enough time to prepare for the referendum's advance voting.

Provincial policy sets out rules for advance voting: by mail and one day of advance polling held 10 days before the official referendum date.

March 28 was the earliest date the city expected to have minimal conflict with, though it would mean the advance poll would be during spring break. April 4 comes before Easter weekend and doesn't push the referendum too far back.

Ron Fawcett, a major proponent and funder of the center proposal, has said previously the earlier the referendum happens, the sooner they can break ground on the project. If it's too late, the whole project could be delayed a full year due to construction seasons.

"We gotta have the referendum no later than the end of March," Fawcett said at a press conference last month. "That's fine if they want to put it off, but it does put us off another year."

Council also decided on the official wording of the referendum question:

“Are you in favour of the City of Kamloops borrowing up to $45 million to construct a Kamloops Centre for the Arts?”

The Kamloops Centre for the Arts Society's business case for the centre states the maximum the city will be on the hook for is $45 million, of the $70 million-project, with Fawcett and his wife Rae, grants and fundraising efforts making up the rest. The business case argues building the centre won't affect property taxes as the new loan would kick in as old loans are paid off. 

Kamloops residents voted in 2015 on a similar project, and rejected it.

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