An artist’s rendition of Grand Forks’ proposed community centre (Community Futures Boundary report)

To build or not to build: Grand Forks community centre to go to city, district referendum

Plans to build a community centre have been in the works since 2018

Plans to build a community centre in Grand Forks have reached the point where city and rural area residents must decide whether or not to fund it, according to closely involved officials.

“The need for a community centre has been brewing in this town since Grand Forks lost the Fall Fair grounds on the [Kettle] river probably fifty years ago,” said Boundary Community Futures manger Jennifer Wetmore, who wrote the community centre proposal for City Hall.

READ MORE: Community Futures moves on Grand Forks community centre plan

“People in the Boundary have been asking for a community centre for years and years,” said rural Grand Forks representative, Roly Russell Thursday, Sept. 24.

READ MORE: Russell to run as BC NDP candidate for Boundary-Similkameen

Russell stressed the economic benefits he said would come back to Grand Forks and the surrounding area if a community centre were to go ahead.

“We can’t have conventions or conferences to represent small businesses in the area,” he said.

“Some of the largest halls that we have now can’t hold much more than 50 or a 100 people, and that was true even before COVID.”

Roly Russell represented rural Grand Forks on the RDKB board before accepting the BC NDP’s nomination to run for the riding of Boundary-Similkameen in October’s provincial election. (Laurie Tritschler - Grand Forks Gazette)

The estimated $10.5 million construction project will be put to city and district voters in a Spring 2021 referendum.

“Cities and districts don’t build community centres. Communities do,” said Wetmore.

Voters will be asked to foot the entire bill even though the province and the federal government are likely to sponsor infrastructure grants in the midterm future, said Russell.

“It has to be an eyes-wide-open decision by community taxpayers.”

Russell said he was optimistic the referendum would pass, despite the legacy of failed attempts to build a centre.

“We’ve never come this far,” he said.

The City of Grand Forks and outlying rural Area D would be contributing partners, with the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary directing taxpayer funds, according to Russell.

The proposed community centre would be built around the city’s Jack Goddard Memorial Arena and City and District Swimming pool, according to plans reviewed by Grand Forks City council.

The proposed referendum will go ahead after the parties finalize funding arrangements, he continued.

Russell made his comments to The Gazette before the B.C. NDP announced he’d won the party’s nomination for the provincial riding of Boundary-Similkameen.


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