Saturday, February 28, 2009

That's a Little Better

Word in the Champion yesterday that our municipal leaders have awoken from their slumber and decided to accelerate the nascent Arts Centre project in order to qualify it for the next funding application opportunity.

The Town is pushing ahead to develop a concept plan for the proposed $40-million arts centre and new central library to make it “construction- ready” and eligible for a portion of the $12 billion in temporary infrastructure funding announced in the federal budget in late January.

Council voted Monday night to speed up detailed design of the facility after the Town received word two weeks ago that a previous application for $15 million in combined provincial and federal funding for the project had been rejected.

“Staff were advised by various government officials that, while the project ranked well in terms of qualifying under the “Cultural Infrastructure” category, the time- lines proposed weren’t advanced sufficiently to ensure the project was ‘construction ready,’” states a staff report submitted to Milton council.

Staff proposed and council approved several measures to move things along, including finding and hiring an architect and reducing the notification time required to terminate the lease with Milton Hydro (the current occupants of the proposed property). This is all excellent news, and I think they may actually be serious this time.

There is one item in the article that puzzles me, though.

Council hasn’t approved the construction of the arts and entertainment centre, though it did approve in principle a business plan for the facility in 2006. At that time, it also approved $100,000 in annual funding for five years to go toward the project from the Milton Community Fund, paid for by Mohawk Racetrack slot revenues.

That was two and a half years ago. What, if anything, has that $200,000 plus been spent on? Not on an architect, apparently, nor on any of the other parts of the process that would have moved the project forward from the vague concept they had in 2006. Now, suddenly, they are in a hurry.

That's what you get for procrastinating.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Call To Arms

As if the news that federal and provincial funding for Milton's long awaited Arts Centre has been denied wasn't bad enough, now it seems that the $32 million Phase II expansion of the Milton Sports Centre will be going ahead at light speed, and is expected to be completed by the fall of 2011.

Milton's Town Council announced its intent to build both the Arts Centre and the Sports Centre at the same time, in the spring of 2000. From that point, Phase I of the Sports Centre was designed, built and opened within three and a half years, and now it seems that Phase II will be proceeding even more quickly.

Another major capital project, the Town Hall Expansion, also went from planning to completion in record time. After proposing the $24 million expansion in the summer of 2005 and going through at least one complete redesign, the project is nearing completion and town staff are already moving in.

Again, that's three and a half years from proposal to completion.

By contrast, it took six years from that original announcement of the intention to build an Arts Centre just to get a site chosen and a development budget approved. And that was two and a half years ago. Since then... nothing. Not even a drawing.

I, for one, am fed up. I'm fed up with holding concerts in drafty churches and crowded school auditoriums. I'm fed up with the biggest venue in town being a barn. I'm fed up with having to drive to Mississauga or Oakville to see shows that we should be able to host right here. I'm fed up with hearing about the great galleries in Dundas and Unionville, while our one privately owned gallery is bursting at the seams. I'm fed up with delays and excuses, and politicians who seem to think that a photo-op with a hockey jersey will buy them more votes than one at a concert or a play.

Most of all, I'm fed up with sports funding trumping arts funding every single time.

Artists and performers of Milton, rise up! We need to start making demands. We need to be heard. It's time to take to the streets.

Stay tuned, and keep April 1st open on your calenders.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Funding Priorities: Milton-Style

Call it a tale of two headlines.

Yesterday's Champion has two stories about what Milton can expect to receive from the federal government's infrastructure stimulus funding package. First the good news:

Raitt, Krantz discuss funding program for centre repairs
By Tim Foran, Canadian Champion Staff

There will be no stickhandling necessary to play in this RInC.

That was the message from Milton Mayor Gord Krantz following a recent meeting with Halton MP Lisa Raitt at the Milton Sports Centre.

The two officials privately discussed the federal government’s two-year, $500 million Recreation Infrastructure in Canada (RInC) funding program announced in the recently passed federal budget.

Though the application process hasn’t been finalized, Krantz said he was confident there wouldn’t be bureaucratic red tape that might hold up the flow of funds.

“I don’t think there’ll be much stickhandling; it’s pretty straightforward,” said Krantz of the RInC program’s application process. “It’s a slapshot.”

Whether the Town scores though won’t be known for a while.

Milton has already identified $1.6 million in repairs to the John Tonelli Sports Centre and the Milton Leisure Centre as possible projects eligible for federal funding, but the Town is waiting for application details before submitting its requests.

And then there's the bad news:

$15-million library, art centre funding application denied
But projects not dead: Krantz

By Tim Foran, Canadian Champion Staff

The Town of Milton’s application for $15 million in federal and provincial funding for an arts and entertainment centre and central library has been rejected.

The two upper levels of government announced Friday a combined $667 million in funding for 289 infrastructure projects in Ontario communities with less than 100,000 people, but Milton’s November funding application wasn’t included in the list of successful projects.

Milton had applied for $7.5 million in funding from each of the two upper governments, money that would have been used toward the construction of the $26 million arts and entertainment centre and the $14 million central library.

“It would go without saying that I’m a little disappointed,” said Milton Mayor Gord Krantz of the unsuccessful application.

Sure. Sure you are, Gord.

Just to give you some idea of what the priorities are in this town, we currently have three hockey arenas (including the giant, multi-rink Milton Sports Centre), a curling rink, a massive Leisure Centre, two public pools (one indoor, one outdoor), and multiple baseball diamonds, soccer pitches, tennis courts, etc. We even have a lawn bowling / croquet field.

Our town's many music and theatre groups, on the other hand, do not have a single dedicated venue to perform in. Instead, they have to make do with either the high school auditorium, the Senior's Centre, or one of the dozen or so churches in town - none of which have appropriate acoustics, lighting, or anything else needed to put on a proper, professional production.

When the Milton Choristers had their 35th anniversary gala a few years ago, they had to do it at the Mississauga Arts Centre.

One possible reason given for why funding was denied for the arts centre and library are that the stimulus is specifically geared towards the ubiquitous "shovel-ready" projects, and the arts centre in particular isn't slated to break ground for a least another two or three years. But why is that? The arts community has been screaming for this centre for at least a decade, and Town Council approved it.. three? four years ago? And yet it hasn't even reached the design stage.

But hey - at least the new Town Hall Expansion is going lickety-split. Complete with its million dollar imported British glass wall.

Isn't it lovely? I wonder what the acoustics are like in there...

(cross-posted from HaltonWatch.)