WILDFIRES – $100,000 public-art ‘monument’ to recognize volunteers

Wildfire statue erected in front of TNRD offices after 2003 wildfires.

Director, Electoral Area P, TNRD

A $100,000 monument honoring wildfire volunteers will be erected at the site that served as the evacuation centre in Kamloops last summer.

Thompson-Nicola Regional District board of directors voted Thursday (Nov. 9, 2017) to put the money in next year’s budget. Kamloops taxpayers will foot most of the bill because the City contributes the largest part of tax dollars to the region.

A report from staff reviewed the outstanding contributions of hundreds of volunteers during the wildfires and proposed the Sandman Centre as the location for a piece of public art to pay tribute to them.

“This incredible display of volunteerism cannot go unacknowledged,” CAO Sukh Gill wrote in a report to the board.

“A permanent, artistic monument or statue offers us the opportunity to recognize these contributions effectively, and on an on-going basis.”

He said the cost is significant but justified.

I support the idea of a statue or some other public art being erected, and I think the Sandman Centre is a good place for it, but I opposed the plan as presented for three reasons: cost to the taxpayer, process and scope.

Spending $100,000 in tax money is totally unnecessary. The existing wildfire memorial erected in front of the Civic Building at Victoria and 5th in honour of volunteers, emergency responders and victims was commissioned and erected at no public cost.

Corporate donations totaled $91,000, covering the whole thing. So why commit $100,000 of tax money when fundraising could easily pay for it?

In 2003, the TNRD board created a special committee to call for proposals, short-list the seven that were received, and make a final recommendation to the board. As well, the TNRD building maintenance committee was involved.

The process then included TNRD board and City council reps, staff and arts community representation. As approved Thursday, this new project will be handled entirely by staff.

Another reason I don’t like the proposal as it stands is that it singles out volunteers for appreciation but doesn’t include reference to the many evacuees and other victims of the wildfires, or to firefighters and other responders who fought so valiantly against the fires.

Admittedly, I initiated the 2003 project and was involved in it through the entire process, so I’m biased towards the methodology used back then, but when there’s a template that worked well, and worked without cost to the taxpayers, I find it hard to figure out why we would significantly narrow the process and approve such an expenditure when non-tax dollars could have been used.

Maybe I’m too stuck on the details. As I said, I support a public-art piece acknowledging the efforts during the wildfires, and that’s what we’ll have at the end of it all.

My posts as TNRD director don’t purport to be objective but are, rather, my view of regional district decisions and issues.

About Mel Rothenburger (9225 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

5 Comments on WILDFIRES – $100,000 public-art ‘monument’ to recognize volunteers

  1. This is outrageous. I volunteered and DO NOT want my tax or others tax dollars paying for a statue. My taxes are high enough. If they have an overage of monies in an account then how about no more increases in taxes for a few years?

  2. You are so right Pierre, people volunteer each according to his/her ability to do so and making a to-do about one event and one segment is very hurtful to the rest. Like choosing a citizen of the year, just awful.

  3. no need to spend 100,000$ people will remember anyway ,what a waste of money ,,

  4. Lorraine Winter // November 10, 2017 at 11:36 AM // Reply

    Pierre’s note is right on. He doesn’t want a statue erected in his or other volunteers’ honour. These generous people do what they do because they care, not to be immortalized. And God forbid we get another somber, lifeless and depressing monument installed in our city like the one in front of the TNRD/art gallery/library building. I love the statue of the Overlanders in front of City Hall, getting kinda of fond of the bull in Riverside Park now that there’s a fence around him but the deadpan remembrance of the 2013 wildfires at 5th & Victoria — makes me look the other way every time I walk or drive by. Where’s the life-force energy?
    I agree completely with Pierre: “put the money to altruistic use.”
    Let’s spend some of that money building housing for all the displaced people who came south from the Cariboo to Kamloops during the summer of 2017. These folks, along with many others, numbered 150 staying in Kamloops shelters a night or so ago.
    Mel, can you please help get the TNRD to spend that $100,000 more wisely?

  5. This is a bit silly for sure, actually a “large” silly. I volunteered for causes before but never felt a “statue” or a memorial of sort was needed.
    Volunteering is an ongoing effort which is done selflessly…put the money to altruistic use….because that is what volunteers would do.

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