Community groups left out in the cold

Users of the recently demolished Arts Unlimited building are continuing to voice their concerns about a pressing need for both operating and storage space for several groups in town.

Users of the recently demolished Arts Unlimited building are continuing to voice their concerns about a pressing need for both operating and storage space for several groups in town.

The district-owned building went out of action just after Christmas 2010 when it was discovered that the furnace had stopped working.

It was demolished two weeks ago after the district deemed it economically irreparable.

The community building, which was located on the corner of Victoria and Church Street, was shared by many groups in the community for meetings and events, notably it was used for recreational art programs for kids, as the headquarters for Vanderhoof Search and Rescue, by the Nechako Valley Community Theatre Society and the Figure Skating Club.

It was the Arts Unlimited centre for the last 15-20 years and before that was the old government building.

While most of the users have managed to find temporary alternatives, they say the need for a community building is urgent.

Annerose Georgeson, the director of Arts Unlimited and Lisa Striegler of the Vanderhoof Theatre Society spoke at council on July 20.

“I heard the message that maybe council thought that we didn’t have any needs anymore and I just wanted to let council know that our needs are not being met at all,” said Georgeson.

“A lot of my storage ends mid-way through August and then I’m back on the street again … meanwhile we are running the street banners out of the youth centre which doesn’t really work.”

“I think the district was extremely generous for the last 20 years in giving us space and maybe we got soft and lazy and used to it but it really feels cold and lonely right now,” she said.

Striegler and Georgeson provided council with a presentation showing images of the old Westline Ford building on Burrard Avenue and gave suggestions on how each area could be utilized by many different community groups.

“The wash bay – this would be a perfect place for the search and rescue truck,” said Striegler.

She added that at the moment, the truck is parked in one of the search and rescue volunteers driveway.

“It’s fairly illegally parked in Richard’s drive way – this is quite an issue for search and rescue,” she said.

“We’ve looked at some buildings in the community and this one is the most viable for our groups,” she added.

Council were also informed that to rent the old Westline Ford building would be approximately $4000 a month not including utilities. The Arts Unlimited building cost the district approximately $8,000 a year to operate.

In a letter submitted to council, the various community groups in question asked that the district lease them a building, and that the district strike a building committee.

Vanderhoof mayor Gerry Thiessen said that the district had originally felt that the situation wasn’t urgent but says council will be meeting in September to discuss various community groups and their needs.

“We have decided that we as council are going to get together and spend an evening in September trying to understand what the total needs of the community are,” said Thiessen.

“Quite often we’ve heard small parts of it that have come to our attention and so we’re going to sit down as a council and try to bring all the different pieces  together,” he said.

In regards to the suggestion that the old Westline Ford building being a great temporary solution, Thiessen says council needs to sit down and discuss it first before they can decide whether it is a workable option or not.

“First we need more of a thorough understanding of the needs of the community and then we will use that as a direction that we as council want to go in the future,” said Thiessen.


He added that the building users have formed a committee and that councillor Jim Woodruff has liaised with that group.