Hope for a multipurpose arts and culture centre took a step back last week when volunteer directors announced they are returning Community Works grants of $70,000 and folding the Friends of the Ingham Centre for Arts and Culture Society.
“It is with deep felt disappointment that we have come to the decision to not accept the areas B, A and C grant monies,” spokesperson Dave St. Germain said at the Dec. 4 Creston Valley services committee (CVCS) meeting the community complex.
The society had an agreement with the owners of property at 1507 Canyon St. to purchase the former auto centre for arts and cultural purposes.
“We have informed the Ingham family that we will not be proceeding,” he said.
St. Germain was accompanied by fellow directors Penny A.P. Anderson and Simon Lazarchuk.
In a letter to the regional directors, St. Germain wrote, “The building is located in the Town of Creston and as a board we realize that without the support within the town it would be a monumental task to finish and sustain this project.”
Some improvements were made to the building under an agreement with the Ingham family, and the Community Works grants were intended to make further renovations. The building has housed occasional art shows but currently is in use only for the CIDO community radio station.
The Ingham centre, with the involvement of town council candidate Anderson and a $50,000 grant through retiring RDCK Area B director John Kettle, became a focus of controversy on social media during the recent election campaign. Large campaign signs for Anderson and the Action Creston team were in prominent display in the building’s windows.
“Although it is too late to salvage this project, we hope that in the future decisions and support will be given to projects based on their merit and community value and not on personalities or being part of a particular group,” St. Germain wrote.
He also expressed concern about what he described as “speculation that the process for application of the Community Works grant may be flawed,” adding that “because of the process we went through, we were able to see the long-term reality of the project.”
CVSC chair Larry Binks objected to any suggestion that the application process is flawed.
“Our (RDCK) staff vetted everything,” Kettle said. “All contracts were in place. I hope that other groups will step up and fill the void.”
Creston Mayor Ron Toyota commented that while rural RDCK areas have gas tax money to grant at their discretion, money from that fund can be used only for infrastructure by municipalities.
“The lack of support in town extends beyond the town council,” St. Germain said, adding that Toyota had indicated that the Town of Creston would not contribute to the project at a previous meeting.
Binks shut down further discussion between Toyota and St. Germain, saying that the CVSC meeting was not the place “to air your dirty laundry.”
“Thanks to all of you for the efforts you put into the community and arts and culture,” he told the group.