The mayor of Campbell River took the opportunity during the Oct. 19 meeting of city council to clarify a few things about the funding for the new library downtown.
Council was discussing a list of pre-budget planning items to pass in advance of its three-day 2021 financial planning marathon happening Oct. 26-28, one of which was the demolition of the current library to prepare for the creation of the new $14-million facility, announced last month.
There are some misconceptions that are out there in the community, particularly on social media, Mayor Andy Adams says, that the money being spent on the new library is money that the city could better use elsewhere.
“The $14 million that is being spent on this particular facility is money that is being requisitioned directly by the Vancouver Island Regional Library board and is not available for access or redistribution to other city functions,” Adams says. “We’ve had comments like why don’t we apply this to some of the downtown issues, or why don’t we use it to rebuild the pool at Strathcona Gardens – which is a Strathcona Regional District facility – or why don’t we use it to fix the Sportsplex?
“This $14 million is the Vancouver Island Regional Library board’s money,” the mayor continues. “If we choose to say, ‘No, we don’t want it,’ they will take that $14 million – as they have for the past eight years – and build a facility elsewhere on Vancouver Island.”
Coun. Claire Moglove echoed those sentiments.
“The funding that comes to build this library comes from, I think, 38 different communities up and down the Island and as far north as Haida Gwaii,” Moglove says. “So just as Campbell River residents have contributed to libraries being built in Comox or Nanaimo or Sayward or wherever … this is Campbell River’s turn.”
But many of the concerns surrounding the project seem to be less about the fact that the money is being spent on a library, and more about the location within the city that it’s being constructed. Specifically, the concerns surround the fact that many people don’t feel comfortable accessing the current library due to safety concerns in that area of town, and the new library will be in the same location.
Coun. Kermit Dahl said while he supports the library project in principle, those concerns need to be urgently addressed.
“I really hope we get the downtown issue dealt with, because it would be terrible to spend $14 million – I know where the money comes from and it has nothing to do with us directly – but to open a $14-million library in the neighbourhood that it’s operating in right now, or under the conditions that neighbourhood operates in right now, would be shameful,” Dahl says. “I hope that we take the downtown safety issue seriously and get it dealt with.”
Mayor Adams says he understands those concerns and admits the city needs to do better.
“We’ve had a vision for downtown and that vision certainly isn’t being realized today or over the past little while,” Adams says. “Certainly council has got its hands full … and will continue to try and find ways to address the completely unacceptable behaviours and issues that are going on in our downtown core.
“But I also think it’s important for council not to abandon the downtown,” Adams continues. “An investment of this type is sending the message that the downtown is important and that we want to see improvements made.”
Coun. Colleen Evans agrees.
“I believe that the type of facility we’re going to see is going to really representative of an enhancement, not only in our downtown core, but in what our citizens are asking for,” Evans says. “I think this is going to be an incredible cultural asset in our community.”
Coun. Dahl also points out that this facility, hopefully, won’t be built into the downtown in its current state.
“We should remind the community that a $14 million library isn’t going to be built in a matter of weeks,” Dahl says. “We have some time to deal with the issues that we have downtown while this process is gone through to bring us a new library that will be safe for everyone to go in and out of.”