City of Edmonton takes pause after giving Heritage Festival the boot from Hawrelak Park

WATCH ABOVE: Edmonton's mayor had some unusually strong words to say on Thursday as frustration grows over some bureaucratic decisions. As Vinesh Pratap reports, the issue has to do with the Heritage Festival's storage space.

City administration is rethinking its decision after telling the Edmonton Heritage Festival it had less than two weeks to get out of its current storage barn at Hawrelak Park.

The move comes after Mayor Don Iveson came out with a strong opinion Thursday over how a few city decisions have been made in recent weeks and months, saying what happened at Hawrelak Park with the Heritage Festival falls in the category of “bone-headed decisions.”

“For a partner we’ve worked with for more than 30 years to put on one of the neatest festivals on planet… I need to understand some more of the details before I can really comment, but certainly from what I’ve seen reported I’m frustrated with the way Heritage Days feels it’s been treated by the city.”

Iveson used strong language when discussing how he feels about this and other decisions that have been made. He told reporters there will be a review of corporate culture to remind city staff that the goal is to “serve people, and the community and businesses so that people can thrive here.”

“I’m not getting the sense that the City of Edmonton is being all that helpful, and that pisses me off.”

Iveson cited other examples of head-scratching decisions, including the one to remove memorial plaques from city benches, the banning of food trucks at Terwillegar dog park and the conversion of the wading pool in front of city hall.

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Iveson said sometimes there are regulatory constraints, but the city has to do a better job of communicating why the decisions are made.

Earlier this week, Heritage Festival was told by the city it had 12 days to find another storage facility at Hawrelak Park, a facility the festival has been using for years.

Heritage Festival executive director Jim Gibbon said preliminary talks were underway with the Jerry Forbes Centre, for the centre to be the solution for the storage situation.

Gibbon said talks began in the spring.

“They stored a few things for us, and I know there’s the potential for us to get in there in October.”

The centre’s Max Sharfenberger said come Oct. 1, they’ll have 10,000 square feet of warehouse space. The building is currently under renovation.

Gibbon told Global News the Heritage Festival began looking for a new storage site in earnest earlier this year, after the city informed them they wanted a change.

“It became readily apparent about six or eight months ago that we were out and for a long time we just thought it was about negotiations,” he said.

“Now it’s clear that the city’s forcing us out. We understand that. I’m not trying to create bad feelings for anyone, we’re just trying to find a space to put on our festival from. So if there is space at the Jerry Forbes Centre, I would love that.”

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Scharfenberger said the Edmonton Folk Music Festival has stored equipment at the Jerry Forbes Centre, and the festivals do work together sharing resources. Gibbon said they’re lending equipment to the Edmonton Marathon.

“Festivals live on very, very tight budgets,” said Gibbon. “We don’t get very much money from anyone and we try to keep our costs down so having a barn that size, that’s essentially free, that’s a pretty hard rate to match. But we’ll have to just accept the fact that we’re going to have to start paying rent, whatever that rent is.

“I think that since Santas Anonymous is in there, they’re busy as a one-armed paper hanger at Christmastime, and we’re busy in the summer, so it might be a really good mix.”

The solution may not be needed after all. Late Thursday, city manager Linda Cochrane said the city will ignore the 12-day deadline and work with the festival to find a solution. Cochrane said it’s hoped the city can negotiate a new storage location within the park.

With files from Caley Ramsay, Global News.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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