The Department of Canadian Heritage has rejected the Brandon Folk, Music and Art Society’s application for federal funding to restore the Strand Theatre in downtown Brandon because of concerns over the business plan and the financial viability of the project.
Renaissance Brandon expressed disappointment at Monday night’s Brandon City Council meeting about hearing of Canadian Heritage’s refusal to offer a grant for the Brandon Folk Music and Arts Society’s Strand Theatre project more than a month after the rejection letter was sent.
"It’s important to understand that Renaissance Brandon was the first organization to have an active participation and shared and engaged on what the Strand could be," said Coun. Corey Roberts (Rosser) who is chairman of Renaissance Brandon. "When this letter from Canadian Heritage came out, the board was not aware of the letter in its entirety until the Brandon Sun came out and disclosed the information it contained."
Roberts said seeing the March 14 date on the Canadian Heritage letter and read that, "there was not much to read in between the lines," that he wishes the BFMAS had disclosed to Renaissance Brandon sooner that the letter had been received.
"Nobody likes to be surprised," Roberts said. "We are there to work with and I just hoped that it wouldn’t have come as such a surprise as that."
Coun. Stephen Montague (Richmond) took that a step further, both during discussions of the verbal Renaissance Brandon report at the council table and after the meeting.
"The city, through Renaissance Brandon, was an early supporter and I believe in strong partnerships in building our community," Montague said. "To go six weeks without hearing anything after the letter was sent and to read it in the newspaper instead of in collegial discussion.
"It’s very frustrating and it makes it very difficult. We were there early to support the project and I wish them luck but to not find out through our partners 40 days later, it weakens a partnership. Now we need to be working hand in hand to try to grow our community."
During the debate of the report, Mayor Shari Decter Hirst said the letter was sent to BFMAS and not to the city.
"I got the copy of the letter when Sandy (Trudel, the city’s economic development officer), so we never saw it until after it was raised in the Brandon Sun," Decter Hirst said. "It is concerning because it is a partnership and we have always wanted to be a good partner in this project because it is a performing arts centre downtown whether it’s new construction or renovation, it’s very much an integral part of the vision of downtown going forward."
Decter Hirst said the lack of notice could have been an oversight, and noted that the federal government communicates with those applying for the grants, not in this case Renaissance Brandon or the city.
"Certainly it wasn’t up to the federal government to notify us," Decter Hirst said.
Also part of the Renaissance Brandon report was a motion by city council to request that the Rosser ward councillor be made a permanent part of the downtown group’s board, which was passed. The motion was requested, as Roberts’ term on the Renaissance Brandon board is set to expire, and there are no provisions for a city councillor to be part of the board that takes up half of the Rosser ward boundaries.
Also notable are two citizen appointments to the Brandon Downtown Development Corporation. for a term from June 1 to May 31, 2015.
Randy Brown and Willmar Lopez were appointed by city council last night after councillors voted to approve their inclusion on the board.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 8, 2012