Arts council denied disaster aid for Red Barn

After a number of trying exchanges with Emergency Management BC, the Eagle Valley Arts Council is giving up hope of disaster funding…

After a number of trying exchanges with Emergency Management BC, the Eagle Valley Arts Council is giving up hope of disaster funding for Sicamous’ Red Barn Arts Centre.

Last week, the Eagle Valley Arts Council (EVAC) and its treasurer, Carla Krens, who oversee operation and maintenance of the barn, received a letter from Emergency Management BC stating they do not qualify for funding under the province’s disaster financial assistance program.

According to the letter signed by recovery officer Carrie Dallaway, this latest decision is based on the fact the barn is insured, and the total damage falls under the $10,000 deductible EVAC was forced to accept because the barn is on a flood plain.

“The damage associated with the deductible is still considered insurable damage and therefore not eligible for DFA (disaster financial assistance),” writes Dallaway.

While Dallaway’s letter invites the arts council to appeal the decision, Krens and EVAC have already been down that route with the province, and have decided to swallow the irony of circumstance and move on.

“I feel that we are really caught in the old catch-22 situation; we need insurance on the building, can’t get that without a large deductible because we are on a flood plain. The province does not cover the deductible portion they only cover it if you don’t have insurance.  And so it goes,” says Krens.

Already a local landmark, the Red Barn took on iconic status during this summer’s flooding as the backdrop for numerous TV news reports and photographs, showing the barn surrounded by water up to its front door. While the main floor of the structure came through unscathed, there was significant damage to the back of the facility. Krens puts the total at about $4,800, including $3,400 in materials and 146 hours of volunteer “senior power.”

Krens says she was initially encouraged by Emergency Management BC to submit an application for disaster assistance, and was told the $10,000 deductible wouldn’t be a factor. In August, EVAC received their first letter of denial, on the grounds that they didn’t qualify as a charitable organization in accordance with Section 8.1 of the Compensation and Disaster Financial Assistance Regulation.

Krens sent off a letter of appeal, with letters of support from both the District of Sicamous and Shuswap MLA George Abbott.

“I know the Eagle Valley Arts Council of Sicamous very well as it has been in operation for 32 years. I can attest to it being a “charitable” and “not-for-profit” organization,” wrote Abbott.

In response, EVAC received a letter from the province’s fire and emergency management commissioner and provincial emergency program director Rebecca Denlinger, who overturned the original decision, and said EVAC would be considered eligible to receive financial assistance. However, Krens was directed to provide a letter from the insurance company confirming flood insurance was available. It was, says Krens, but $10,000 was the lowest available flood deductible for the non-profit arts council, whose entire annual budget ranges between $15,000 and $19,000.

“That’s not a reasonable deductible – I don’t know what would have happened if we had not been able to have flood insurance at all – it doesn’t suit us other than if the Red Barn had been flushed away,” said Krens. “Because, if the main floor had gone underwater, it would have wiped us out financially and with this kind of attitude, it would have been hopeless. The barn would be gone.”

Krens says Emergency Management BC’s latest reply may be legally correct, but ethically bankrupt.

“It’s a real shame that we had to go through so many hoops after the Red Barn Arts Centre was used by every media from coast to coast, and all the newspapers as the ‘victim’ of the big floods in Sicamous, and there’s no help for the victim in Sicamous,” says Krens.