Council needs to consider sun shelter for Square, says mayor
Merritt Mayor Susan Roline says council needs to seriously consider budgeting money for a sun shelter in Spirit Square, after two baking hot Clash of the Talents performances had concert-goers dreaming of shade.
The concrete concert venue in Merritt’s downtown core offers little protection from the sun except for a wooden shelter over the stage and most people attending this summer’s talent contest wore sunglasses and sun hats to fend off the rays though some used umbrellas for a little bit of extra cover.
Roline said the original drawings for Spirit Square included plans for a sun shelter; however, there wasn’t enough money for the addition when the project reached that point.
“[The shelter] wouldn’t be a permanent structure — it would be made of canvas or tenting material — and would come down depending on the season,” she said. “There had also been talk about putting in a shade system for the artists because depending on the time of day the sun shines directly in their faces.”
The issue came up briefly during a regular council meeting on Aug. 7 when several councillors reported attending the City-sponsored talent contest, and they commented on the heat. At the time Roline, said a shelter was something council should consider during this year’s budget process.
Later she said she had no idea what the cost would be, adding that the City would need to get a quote prior to budget discussions.
Gordon Campbell (premier at the time) announced funding for Merritt’s Spirit Square in July 2007 as part of the B.C. Spirit Square project in preparation for the province’s 150th anniversary.
Roline said the project cost just over $1 million and included funding from both the federal and provincial governments as well as city contributions such as purchasing the existing buildings and lots where the plaza sits.
The Merritt Walk of Stars Society was instrumental in securing the grants for the project.
Kamloops architect Trevor Owen designed the venue with help from Vanessa Graham.
Spirit Square is a work in progress, said Roline — First Nations artist Les Hampton was contracted to create several pieces of art still in the works, including copper fish that will go in the water fountain and another piece to be displayed near the gazebo.
Roline said it’s important for the City to consider the use of facilities and recognize that the lack of shade at Spirit Square is a deterrent for some people
“I think most councillors would be supportive of [a sun-shelter] because most of them have sat through events there and see how hard it is on people,” she said. “We can’t just say ‘we can’t afford a sun shade so we can’t use Spirit Square anymore.’”
Fountain not for drinking
A new sign has been placed near the fountain at Spirit Square warning people not to drink the water.
When councillors discussed the lack of shade at Spirit Square during the Aug. 7 regular council meeting, Coun. Harry Kroeker said he saw people filling their water bottles with water from the fountain at a Clash of the Talents performance and questioned whether this was safe.
Public Works Superintendent Darrell Finnigan confirmed that the water was not potable and a sign went up the following week.
“That water is not fresh, potable water — it’s recycled within that fountain,” said Shawn Boven, public works manager. “We add chlorine once in a while to keep it from going green, but it’s not drinking water.”
Boven said if people drink water that is not from the community water system they run the risk of getting sick.
“Ideally people will read the sign and just not drink from the fountain,” he said. “We don’t want to see anybody sick.”