City hall and heritage society disagree over operation of historic Kamloops building
St. Andrews is Kamloops' oldest civic building, dating back to 1887
The day-to-day operations of historic former church St. Andrews on the Square in Kamloops, B.C., will soon be under the control of the city.
The heritage building is owned by the City of Kamloops but has been managed and operated by the Kamloops Heritage Society since 1998.
City administration will take over booking such things as weddings and community events, as of spring 2020. Peggy Broad, president of the Heritage Society, says they were caught off guard by the change and are unhappy.
"The worst case scenario is that a lot of the community events that our volunteers put on for the City of Kamloops ... we won't be able to do that anymore," Broad told Shelley Joyce, host of Daybreak Kamloops.
She does not think the city can keep these traditions alive.
St. Andrews is Kamloops' oldest civic building, dating back to 1887.
Disagreement over discussions on building's future
The City of Kamloops and the Kamloops Heritage Society are in disagreement over what has and has not been discussed concerning the building's future operations.
Coun. Mike O'Reilly says the switch in management is not news to the society. He says there's been an ongoing conversation between the two parties, which began when the society approached the city five years ago.
"They had said, 'our model is not sustainable and we're not going to continue this. We'd like to work on a five year transition plan for the city to take over the building so that it's seamless,'" said O'Reilly.
"We just feel at this point the best thing for the taxpayers of Kamloops ... for that building ... is for the city to take the operations over."
Broad, who has been president of the society since early 2018, says what O'Reilly said is untrue. She says that according to transcripts of the meeting five years ago, the society asked for an agreement on who — the city or the society — would handle certain repairs needed for the buildings.
Broad says communication with the city has been difficult and often non-existent.
The decision to take control of the church from the heritage society was made by council without public discussion in a closed-door session, says O'Reilly.
But the city still wants to work with the society going forward.
"Volunteers are still more than welcome to come and put things on ... to work in the building. And we hope to maintain that relationship with the society."
The Heritage Society say that the ideal solution would be for the city to negotiate a new service agreement and leave them in place as operators of St. Andrews.
O'Reilly says that is an option for the future, if council brings the issue back for disucssion.
The society currently offers an in-person consultation and tour of the building for those wishing to book the facility for events. O'Reilly says the city will do the same going forward.
The society's volunteers currently host a variety of events at the church, including antique appraisal shows, craft events and Christmas festivities for children.
Former city councillor and former chair of the Kamloops Heritage Society, Shirley Culver, wrote an open letter to Mayor Ken Christian in support of the city taking over the church.
"You know what? It is very easy to criticize city council for the decisions that we think they didn't make right. In this case, I felt strongly that the city had made the right decision to take ownership of that," she said.
Culver left the society in 2017, because the city had indicated for years that the roof and other parts of the building needed repairs, and she said some members of the society were very resistant to it.
She believes the city has more resources to repair and maintain the church.
"I think the future is very bright for St. Andrews," said Culver.
With files from Daybreak Kamloops