Interpretive building use under scrutiny

Local artisans may be out of a home after Christmas.

An artisan’s co-op has been renting the Burns Lake interpretive centre building since 2010. The current rental arrangement will end on Dec. 31

An artisan’s co-op has been renting the Burns Lake interpretive centre building since 2010. The current rental arrangement will end on Dec. 31

The Lakes Artisan Co-operative that currently rents the Interpretive Centre Building from the Village of Burns Lake must submit a new rental application and potentially compete with other businesses in the community.  In a unanimous decision of the Village of Burns Lake council, it was resolved that village council would issue a local request for proposals, “to allow residents and businesses to submit a rental application indicating the highest monthly rental amount they are able to pay and their intended use for the building which should comply with the original intent identified in the building grant agreement.”

According to a Village of Burns Lake council report, the annual cost associated with the building are over $9500 per year, included utilities, municipal services, snow removal and general maintenance.  The Artisan Co-operative currently pays $500 per month, and has asked to have their rent reduced to $400 per month with the promise that they will take care of their own snow removal in the winter.

Some local business owners have expressed their concern that the rental agreement with the Village of Burns Lake is in effect a violation of section 25 of the community charter which prohibits assistance  to a business.  Beate Marquardt, a member of the co-operative, believes that the village is not in violation of the village charter because the Artisan Co-operative does not operate in the same way that a privately owned business does.

In a legal opinion obtained by the Village of Burns Lake, the village can rent to the highest bidder even if that bid is less than the cost of keeping the building open.  It is not necessarily a contravention of the community charter to rent the building for less than what it costs to operate it.

The requirements outlined by the grant agreement which funded part of the original building cost says that the centre is to be used as “a first-class Tourism Information and Interpretive Centre that is vital to creating new businesses, investment and employment in the tourism sector.”