FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – A decision that has shaken the arts and culture community is set to be discussed at Monday’s council meeting.
The North Peace Cultural Society will present to council following the City’s decision to assume management of the cultural center. The City’s decision became known to the public through a media release on June 15th.
The Society was given a 90 days notice with City taking over management on September 9th.
A nerve has been seemingly hit with the City’s announcement as both sides had gone back and forth through letters that were released to the public. The Society also released multiple letters from residents and board members voicing their concerns with the decision.
The management agreement between the two entities expired on November 30th, 2020, and the City’s decision came after months of discussions. The City had informed the Society of the decision via email to chair Connie Surerus on June 14th.
The City said fundamental differences were identified during discussions relating to the responsibilities and opportunities of community cultural services.
“As we look at the cultural programming and events in other communities, we have not seen the same level of programming locally,” said the City’s June 15th statement.
The Society argues that it needs 12 months’ notice before ending its relationship due to a section of the Cultural Services Agreement that ended in November.
Section 16, Termination without Reason, states that either party may, without reason terminate this Agreement upon 12 months’ notice to the other party.
“This should have started in June 2020 to provide enough time for negotiations, finalize terms and conditions, and sign a new agreement before November 30, 2020. This did not happen, and if the City of Fort St. John did not intend to renew the agreement, you should have issued the 12 months’ notice at that time,” said Sureus in a June 18th letter to the City.
Surerus said the media release on June 15th had caused uncertainty and anxiety to the various NPCC user groups, staff, and board members.
“We ask Mayor and Council to reconsider their decision and allow negotiations to continue in good faith, otherwise, 12 months’ notice needs to be issued.”
Following an outcry from the arts community, residents, and Society board members, the City released letters to Rosemary Landry, President of the Fort St. John Community Arts Council, and Surerus.
The Society has released a slew of responses to the City’s letters in hopes of debunking the claims.
Written letters from the City in response to the Society and Arts Council can be viewed below:
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