Fixing the Memorial Centre’s roof left council divided on Wednesday.
By a 5-4 vote, council decided to spend $2.1 million to fix the roof and to deal with other critical repairs.
Council heard the roof on the 64-year-old building is leaking and there is the possibly of black mould in the building.
But some councillors questioned the logic of putting millions into the aging facility when the money could be invested in a new facility.
The repairs will likely extend the life of the facility for another seven to 10 years, according to a 2015 facility assessment.
Coun. Buck Buchanan said the building is tired and the necessary repairs will no doubt climb in the coming years. He voted against the allocation along with Councillors Dianne Wyntjes, Lawrence Lee and Paul Harris.
Wyntjes said she understands there is a need for space for smaller user groups but she could not support putting more money into the building. She said Red Deer is a growing city and this building will cost the city much more money in the long run.
“I don’t think it’s a wise decision,” she said. “I think we should be bold and think about where we are at with our next steps in the investments in our cultural multi-use site to accommodate this needs.”
Mayor Tara Veer said fixing the roof is a basic maintenance requirement and fulfilling contractual obligations. Veer said ultimately it was a fix the roof or close the facility question. She said the city would had to have face the displacement of user groups and the Veterans Memorial Wall.
At least three councillors including Buchanan, Coun. Lynne Mulder and Harris joined Wyntjes in calling for putting the money into a performing arts centre or multi-use centre.
Harris said the budget is out of the scope for the project and anticipates more funding requests for the building.
Coun. Tanya Handley said the building is a perfect space for the smaller user groups that cannot afford the larger facilities.
Mulder successfully argued later in the debate to have a needs assessment study on the proposed centre moved up to 2017 from its 2020 placement in the city’s 10-year capital plan. It comes with an estimated $239,000 price tag.
Mulder said she could not in good faith vote against fixing a leaking roof with the possibility of black mold.
The facility is owned by the city and operated by Central Alberta Theatre.
The majority of the work will occur next summer.