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No arts centre in draft city budget

Wendy Ferris
Star Staff
November 19, 2002, page 1

A local group trying to bring an arts and culture facility to the east end says it's not surprised the proposed facility isn't in the city's draft budget last week.

"Let's put it this way.  It is like a hockey game and the first period is over but there are still two more periods to go," said J.F. Claude, chair of Equality East Citizens' Coalition.

Claude says Equality East is not counting itself or the proposed arts and culture facility out yet and the group will meet this week to plan its next step.

Created in September, the group promotes the public and private investment in the renewal of the east district community's cultural, economic, and social infrastructure.

Equality East's first task was to launch a campaign to lobby city council to find funds in its budget for the establishment of an east end community arts and cultural centre.

"We are having ongoing discussions with city councillors," said Claude. "City council doesn't review the budget until Jan. 8, so there is still some time. We are still gathering signatures on our petition."

The citizens' group is trying to rally support from the community by collecting signatures on petitions for the new facility, and remain optimistic.

However, Claude says he was surprised to see a recommendation in the draft budget for renovations to the former Cumberland Town Hall. Under the Arts & Heritage Building Improvements project, the city's Health, Recreation & Social Services committee is recommending that, "Proposed renovations to the former Cumberland Town Hall may have an impact on the new theatre demands and second floor exhibition space."

Recommended renovations are to take place in 2007.

"That facility does not respond to the needs of the arts and culture community," said Claude, speaking of the Cumberland Town Hall. "The stage is barely adequate for rehearsal space."

Claude went on to say that the Cumberland Town Hall has poor lighting and no wings on the stage.

"We are not concerned. Concerned isn't the right word," he said, when asked if he was concerned that Cumberland Town Hall renovations were included in the draft budget, while a new arts facility was excluded. "We are vigilant."

Claude expects Equality East to make a presentation when the Health, Recreation and Social Services Committee meet at 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 11 to review the draft budget.