The Merritt Civic Centre is set for significant upgrades in the new year with the help of a $128,000 investment from the federal government, Okanagan-Coquihalla MP Dan Albas announced Thursday.

“It’s nice to see some money coming into the city from the federal government,” Merritt Mayor Susan Roline said. “They recognize things we need to do and sometimes we can’t come up with all the funding.”

The funding comes from the Harper Government’s Community Infrastructure Improvement Fund, which aims to distribute $46.2 million over two years in cost-sharing for repairs and improvements to public buildings.

“It seems everything that happens in Merritt happens in this facility,” Albas said in a speech to about 40 people. “The Civic Centre is an important part of community life, but there’s always room for improvement.”

Some of those improvements include installing an audio-visual system, refinishing the existing floors and upgrading the centre’s main electrical system.

“We have trade shows, and if all of a sudden the breakers go and somebody’s demonstrating a product, that really detracts from what they’re doing and potentially causes us business,” the City of Merritt’s Leisure Services Manager Larry Plotnikoff said.

The City recently received a $5,500 donation from the Country Christmas Committee and the Nicola Valley Arts Council to upgrade the Civic Centre’s lighting, which will receive more help from the new funding.

Albas said the city invited him on a tour through the facility to see what kind of upgrades it needed, and the money will be used to “modernize” the facility. Albas said he expects the biggest spinoff benefits to come from upgrading the centre’s kitchen facilities, which he said could attract conferences, weddings and more fundraisers to the centre.

“Merrittonians would want to have events here, but because of the food safety laws, they need a commercial kitchen to be able to follow those regulations,” Albas said. “By having a commercial kitchen here, you’re going to see more events that are catered locally, whether by a small business, family, or rotary club wanting to put on a fundraiser. I think that’s going to be a major upgrade for this area.”

The economic benefits also extend to the upgrading process itself. The City’s next step is to put out a request for proposals to local contractors for the electrical and flooring work, among other upgrades. The city expects to begin renovations in January, during the centre’s slow season. Plotnikoff said the upgrades will work around events already booked in the new year.

“We’re happy to work around those events,” Plotnikoff said. “We aren’t going to cancel any event because they’re priorities. People have booked, paid their money, and their events are going to be held.”