CORNWALL, Ontario – In a vote of 7 to 3 Cornwall City Council voted to choose the Civic Complex as the site of a future Arts Centre in Cornwall.
“This is momentous,” said Councillor Bernadette Clement excitedly before the vote after drumrolling on her desk. “I know we’re not going to build this next year, but this is a step forward. This is a big deal tonight.”
The Civic Complex was cited as the preferred option in a report presented to Council by Sierra Planning and Management (SPM) and +VG Architects in July.
The report also presented the Si Miller Arena site, the Cotton Mill area and the Aultsville theatre as possible options.
The consultants said that while the Civic Complex was the option that most closely fit the criteria for a new Arts and Culture Centre, it would need some renovations.
Specifically, the report suggests adding an 8, 000 square foot addition to the Complex and a new entrance on the Northwest side of the building. Estimated costs for such renovations is approximately $12 million.
“We don’t have $12 million for this project so it will not be this year, unless council approved $12 million tomorrow,” said Municipal Engineer Michael Fawthrope. “We could create some art-space in the existing space in the salons to get the project rolling.”
However, the $12 million price tag raised concern from some Councillors who wanted to put off the decision until the money could be found.
“We should defer the decision until budget time,” said Councillor Mark MacDonald. “We promised not to raise taxes.”
MacDonald was referring to a pledge made by six Councillors during the last election to not raise taxes.
Councillor Andre Rivette suggested that Council ignore the recommendations of the consultant’s report and instead consider purchasing a vacant building such as an empty church or school.
Councillor Denis Carr however had a concern as to what this vote could mean for another home of the arts in Cornwall.
“Building Arts Centre at Civic Complex could signify the demise of Aultsville Theatre,” he said.
Rivette motioned that the decision on the location of the new arts centre be deferred to budget time, which was seconded by Carr, but that motion failed.
The passing of the motion to identify the Civic Complex as the future site of the Arts Centre does not mean that there is an immediate plan to begin renovations or a timeline towards opening. CAO Maureen Adams emphasized that this was simply the first step.
Councillor Carilyn Hébert pushed Council to not leave these plans for an Art Centre on the shelf indefinitely after this decision and made a notice of motion that the Council receive quarterly progress reports. Councillor Hébert’s motion will be considered at he next meeting of Council.