Burr society hopes compensation near

The Raymond Burr Performing Arts Society is hoping New Westminster city council will soon live up to a commitment to provide compensation for equipment the society owned before the Burr Theatre was sold in 2009, says president Ted Eddy.

When the society’s lease for the theatre expired in 2006 they were about to go through an auction process to dispose of the society’s assets in the theatre such as curtains, lighting and a sound system, which Eddy maintains had a purchase value of about $100,000. But the city, said Eddy, asked the society to leave them there which then-president Ted Syverson and the board was agreeable to, as long as the building was used as a community theatre.

If it ceased to be utilized for that purpose the city would pay the society $14,000 in compensation, said Eddy.

Although the society—through its sister body the Columbia Theatre Heritage Trust—made a bid of $1 million for the Burr, said Eddy, the city sold the building for $850,000 in 2009 to Lafflines owner Barry Buckland, who has converted it into a comedy club and dinner theatre.

“Although we were perplexed at how [the sale] happened, we asked for removal of our theatre assets because we had a purchaser willing to pay considerably more than $14,000,” said Eddy.

However, the city said it had no record it made any compensation agreement with the society. So Eddy filed freedom of information requests seeking confirmation of the agreement. In mid-August, the provincial privacy commissioner forced the city to hand over minutes of an in-camera meeting in which council unanimously approved the deal in principle, said Eddy.

“In my view it is the moral equivalent of a contract.”

The society wants to use the compensation to help fund awards, bursaries and scholarships for Douglas College theatre students, and has already started providing them even though the compensation has yet to be provided, said Eddy.

Eddy said he has been invited to appear before council next Monday, but won’t comment on the state of the ongoing discussions with the city.

“I don’t want to poison the well,” said Eddy.

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