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Grand Forks community centre referendum a go

Despite some previous hesitation from the City of Grand Forks, residents of the city and surrounding rural area will vote on Oct. 15 on whether to build a new community centre.

The question, to be included on the municipal ballot, will ask city and Area D residents whether they support spending up to $16.3 million to build the facility plus up to $1.2 million per year on operating costs.

“We’re hoping we don’t have to go that high, but good grief, with the cost of building now, I’d be happy to keep it there,” says city councillor and regional director Cathy Korolek.

The idea of a new community centre has been around for many years. Korolek says she has always been in favour of it.

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“I have to confess it drives me crazy when you see small places like Beaverdell or Bridesville that have community halls or centres and Grand Forks doesn’t,” she says.

Korolek says when she first moved to the area, she was part of a Rotary conference held in what is now the Jack Goddard Memorial Arena. However, break-out sessions had to take place at the high school or “wherever we could find a place.”

“It was very successful, but we need a facility that is a step above the arena. I think we’ve reached a stage where it’s time to have something a little more usable and community-oriented.”

Korolek says the community centre would not only be used to host events, but for emergencies. She says during the floods of 2018, the emergency operations centre was “jammed into a small pace” at the regional district office and people with nowhere to go only had the arena.

“That’s a large part of the whole thing for me, to have an appropriate place for people to gather, whether it’s a social event or in an emergency situation. I think a community centre could play a really large and important part in our community.”

However, late last year, city staff recommended against proceeding to referendum, arguing that while the project had merit, a number of other major infrastructure projects should take priority. At that time the cost of the community centre was pegged at $9.7 million.

The results from both the city and rural area will be counted together in determining the referendum result.

Korolek says a couple of public meetings are expected on the project, one in the summer and another closer to voting day, but no dates have been set.

Area D director Danna O’Donnell did not return a phone message seeking comment.

The exact wording of the question will be:

“Are you in favour of the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary adopting the following proposed bylaws: ‘Grand Forks and Electoral Area D Community Centre Establishment Bylaw No. 1802, 2022′ which will establish a service within the City of Grand Forks and Electoral Area D/Rural Grand Forks to provide for the construction, operation and maintenance of a community centre in the City of Grand Forks; and annually requisition up to a maximum of the greater of $1,200,000 or $$0.8279/$1,000 of taxable assessed value to pay for the service?

Grand Forks and Electoral Area D Community Centre Loan Authorization Bylaw No. 1806, 2022’ to authorize the long-term borrowing of up to $16,300,000 (Sixteen Million Three-Hundred Thousand Dollars) for the construction of the Grand Forks/Electoral Area D Community Centre service?”

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