Penticton has a problem with its public buildings.
They’re getting old, with an average age of 35 years. And old buildings, like old cars, means ever-increasing repair costs — according to city staff, about $30 million dollars over the next decade.
Considering the city only budgets about $1 million a year for facilities maintenance, there’s quite a gap to be made up.
One solution brought forward by city staff is to combine some of the facilities. The library, museum and art gallery could be housed either at city hall or the in a re-purposed Trade and Convention Centre — both saving money, and freeing up land for sale or other, more profitable, uses.
From a technical point of view, this makes good sense, and the facilities might benefit from increased cross traffic.
From a community or social point of view, however, it makes little sense. The library and museum complex is in an easily accessible location, right across the street from the larger of Penticton’s two high schools and a nearby middle school. It’s hard to imagine better synchronization between location and user groups.
The Art Gallery, which Mayor Andrew Jakubeit has unfairly described as a building without windows next to the water — the Tea Room looks out over the Japanese Garden — has a beautiful setting, nestled between two parks, three if you count the gardens. While it may not have many windows, you can be sure that art patrons enjoy the environs outside as much as the art inside.
Would another hotel or more high rise condos serve the community better in that setting?
Making good financial decisions is a must, but that doesn’t mean money should be the bottom line for everything. Let’s dig a bit deeper and find a solution that doesn’t weaken the social fabric of the community, especially the downtown core, which the city is working so hard to revitalize.