Letter: Mysterious dealings behind Rutland hall and park

A new roof was put on Rutland Centennial Hall just three years ago at a cost of $52,000.

To the editor:

The City of Kelowna carried out an assessment of Rutland Centennial Hall “when the land deal was being negotiated and found the building systems critically deficient and in need of immediate replacement, a cost likely to exceed $1million to rectify.” (Kelowna Capital News, April 4)

Rutland Park Society president Todd Sanderson is quoted as saying: “the building has fallen into disrepair and nothing has been done to upgrade the hall…the building is in distress.” Really. Using loaded words such as “disrepair” and “distress” is a fear-mongering tactic, code for: “We need a new hall.”

Nothing has been done to upgrade the hall? A new roof was put on just three years ago at a cost of $52,000.

Why is this $1 million figure only coming to public knowledge now? Members of the Kelowna city staff, Kelowna city council, and at least some members of the RPS knew about this $1 million figure in 2013. (And as many know, governments—whether municipal, provincial or federal—at times over-estimate costs. When the project is completed, they report it came in under budget.)

From a report to city council dated Sept. 25, 2013: “Staff undertook a detailed conditional assessment of the Hall and Park in the spring of 2013. The city and park society have had multiple discussions throughout the year to outline desired outcomes for the lands….There is approximately a building lifecycle backlog of $1 million which needs to be invested into the hall in order to be brought up to the City of Kelowna building standards for operations….Both the city and the society have expressed a desire to invest all proceeds from the road acquisition into the upgrade of the building space.”

Regarding the hall, Sanderson told Global News in August 2014: “It’s mostly just bringing everything up to code, the electrical, the HVAC system (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning).” If Sanderson knew the cost to renovate the hall would likely exceed $1 million, why was he promoting a deal with the city that only gave the RPS $800,000?

The July 29, 2015 Capital News reported that a federal grant of $273,586 to the RPS—announced by former MP Ron Cannan—was matching funds the society “already has in place for improvements to the hall.” The matching funds are part of the $800,000 the RPS received from the city.

Cannan: “Rutland has always had some unique characteristics, in particular this hall. This will help improve the facility and benefit families and residents for years to come.”

Sanderson: “Hopefully it means a sustainable hall that can serve as a focal point for the community….These renovations will allow us to bring it up to a sustainable level and use the funds to maintain it.” Improvements include the sound system, bar and kitchen, washrooms, stage, and refinishing the hardwood floor.

But how many are aware the federal grant of $273,586 must be used to renovate the existing hall, or it will be lost to the RPS?

The RPS resolution to transfer park ownership passed at their Oct. 20, 2014 AGM. A society’s resolution—whether special, ordinary, or director’s—does not take effect until it is filed with the BC Registry Service (Victoria). From Section 66 of the BC Society Act: “(3) A special resolution, other than one changing the number of directors or removing a director, does not take effect until it is filed with the registrar.”

When I phoned the BC Societies unit last week, I was told the resolution hasn’t been submitted for approval. So I asked, “What does that mean?” The rep replied: “They [the city] can’t do anything with it.” The rep said it twice. Then I said, “Work has already started on the park. So are you saying the deal between the RPS and the city is illegal?” The rep replied: “That’s something for the courts to decide.” A spokesperson for the Land Registry Office in Kamloops should be contacted for comment.

The RPS has hired CTQ, a Kelowna consulting firm “to explain the hall’s current financial renovation status and garner public input…”  If one goes on the CTQ website, you will see similar projects CTQ has done for clients (click on Urban Design) which are probably in the range of $20,000 to $30,000. I wonder how much the RPS will be paying for CTQ’s consulting work?

RPS vice-president George Basran said there are concerns the hall may contain asbestos, the removal of which alone “would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.” Where is Basran getting his information? Even if asbestos is found in the hall, the city has estimated the removal would be about $75,000.

According to healthlinkbc.ca, if your home was built before 1990, it is more likely to have asbestos in the insulation wrapped around your furnace ducts or pipes, as well as in floor tiles. “Asbestos only poses a potential health risk when it is disturbed, fraying or crumbling and fibers are released in the air. Asbestos fibers that are enclosed behind walls, isolated in attics, bound tightly in an intact product, or kept away from the interior environment of a home or building poses little risk. Tests show that removing asbestos from older buildings can actually increase the risk of exposure and the quantity of asbestos fibres in the air if the proper precautions are not followed.”

In 2014 the city held open houses to consult the public regarding three options for the park. The RPS board and a majority of the public chose Option 2, which included a sports court (four pickleball or one tennis), soccer field, pavilion and stage, multi-cultural garden, and playground. Pickleball has been called the fastest growing sport in North America. Last July 10 through 12, Kelowna hosted the Canadian Pickleball Western Championships with 300 participants.

Now I hear the city has decided to replace the pickleball courts with one basketball court (no lights). Putting in a basketball court is ridiculous because there is one just down the road at Rutland Middle School that is rarely used. Why isn’t the city respecting the will of the majority?

In 2013-2014 and 2014-2015, Danita Lischka was the secretary for the RPS. In 2015-2016, she continues as one of 13 directors. But on the website ourrutland.ca, the secretary position is “Vacant.” According to the BC Societies Act, there must be a secretary to “keep minutes of all meetings of the society and directors.” And if one is a current member of the RPS, good luck trying to obtain copies of board meeting and AGM minutes.

Last week the RPS website said: “The park is still owned by the Rutland Park Society today and managed by a volunteer board of directors who are dedicated and committed to keeping the park community owned and operated.”

Now it says: “The Rutland Park Society is managed by a volunteer board of directors who are dedicated and committed to keeping the community hall owned and operated.”

What will it say next year? And why isn’t the society now called the Rutland Society, or better yet, the Rutland Secret Society?

David Buckna, Kelowna