City approves desperately needed funding for CAT

Red Deer City council has provided desperately needed funding for Central Alberta Theatre to enable them to move forward in the process of acquiring the old Uptown Theatre building.

City council approved a total of $75,000 in funding — $35,000 in the form of a grant, which will be taken out of the Downtown Reserve and $40,000 in the form of a loan, which will be taken out of the Tax Stabilization Reserve.

The loan will have to be paid back to the City over a four-year period.

“This is great news for Central Alberta Theatre,” said William Trefry, executive director of CAT. “It means we’ll be able to get our project back on track.”

Last month, CAT had an unexpected setback in their plans after it was discovered a fire suppression system was needed throughout the entire building to bring it up to code. The cost to do this is $125,000.

This increase in cost equated to about 25% of the overall cost of the renovation.

“We were prepared to finance the cost of this project upfront, and then invite corporate and individuals to partner with Central Alberta Theatre to bring the overall cost down,” said Trefry. “However, with this setback we are not in the position to fully finance the complete cost of the project at the beginning. Therefore, we must look at sponsors to actually get the project back on track if we are to move forward with our plans to take over the building.”

The landowner extended its offer to lease with the CAT organization and agreed to not entertain offers on the space until Nov. 2, giving CAT an opportunity to come up with the funding that was needed.

“I’m in full support of this recommendation,” said Councillor Cindy Jefferies. “It fits within the GDAP (Greater Downtown Action Plan) and it’s important to have positive activity in our downtown and this would create that activity.”

Councillor Tara Veer said although she was supportive of the recommendation, she had concerns about how the City chooses which organizations receive help in terms of funding.

“We’ve have had other organizations come forward with requests and sometimes we approve them and sometimes we don’t,” she said. “I would like to look at developing a policy on how these approvals take place.”

City council voted in favour of giving $75,000 in funding to CAT. Councillor Chris Stephan voted against the motion.

Council also voted in favour of directing City administration to develop a policy framework to outline how and when capital grants and/or loans to community organizations will be considered.

This report is expected to come back to council by June 30, 2011.

In addition, construction on the old Uptown Theatre is expected to begin by mid-November. It is hoped the project will be complete in May 2011.