The B.C. Wine Information Society is looking for the City of Penticton to come up with $100,000 to fulfil what they say was promised in an agreement to relocate their facility.
The society said that even though they had a decade to run on their lease for the Wine Information Centre on the corner of Eckhardt Avenue and the Channel Parkway, they were willing to work with the city when that spot was identified as the best location for Gateway Casinos to relocate.
“We approached it as how can we make this work for everyone,” said Rod King, chair of the Wine Information Centre Society, explaining they chose to work on a less formal level with the city, rather than bringing in legal counsel and dragging the process out.
“The general consensus was that what we had in the old building would be provided in the new building,” said Laura Kowalchuk, manager of the Wine Information Centre. She noted there were actually two moves in one year; once to a temporary location, then into the new space.
According to the society, the city owes them $100,631.35 to fulfil the requirements of a letter of understanding signed on Dec. 3, 2015.
According to the society, their invoice remains unpaid after numerous discussions with staff. They were recently told the city would pay the amount of $40,783.91 of this invoice, leaving an outstanding balance of $59,847.44.
The city’s point of view, according to a report prepared by facilities manager Bregje Kozak, is that the terms of the LOU have been met. The letter gives $75,000 as the maximum for relocation expenses, which is qualified in a note that states “this amount can be increased to meet needs as costs are finalized assuming structure/design is deemed reasonable.”
“That $75,000, we knew that wasn’t going to be enough and we questioned that at the time, that’s why it was amended,” said Kowalchuk, adding that there was no discussion that items would have to be brought back to the city for approval.
The disputed items on the society’s invoice include a $15,419 balance on refrigeration equipment, $7,402 for a stained glass window and $37,025.63 for washroom facilities.
“When we moved out of that location we took every piece of furniture we could, every piece of shelving. We wanted to make sure nothing was wasted to keep our costs as low as we could,” said Kowalchuk. “The coolers were built into the old space; we could not move them.”
Kozak’s report contends these expenses are over and above the LOU: the cost of washrooms should have been negotiated with their new landlord, Gateway Casinos, and the refrigeration units exceed the amount set out for moving expenses. Gateway, according to the report, has agreed to compensate the society for the stained glass window.
Kozak recommends the city increase the maximum by $10,000 for a total compensation of $90,000. That amount falls within the previously approved budget for the project, but leaves about $60,000 outstanding on the Wine Society’s funding request.
“We are considered ‘the’ VQA store in B.C., by the Wine Institute and individual owners,” said King, noting they have used up their savings in relocating as well as the contingency fund the store has always maintained.
“The money we are requesting today will go a long way to rebuilding the contingency fund,” said King. “Our net profits are returned to the city.”