Port McNeill council won’t be making any decisions on what to do with the Old School House this year.
Coun. Shelley Downey confirmed at the town’s last council meeting she doesn’t think there will be a plan made until after the 2018 municipal election is over.
Coun. Graham MacDonald wondered if Port McNeill residents had been involved enough in the discussion about what to do with the outdated building. Mayor Shirley Ackland disagreed with MacDonald, stating she believes the residents of the town have been included in the discussion right from the start.
Council held a public consultation on the Old School House back on Dec. 5, 2016, which was a lively one hour meeting full of questions.
One resident at that 2016 meeting was concerned about the senior’s centre. “The senior’s centre in room five is also a concern of mine, and a priority for us is to build a senior’s community centre,” said Ackland.
Another asked if the insurance on the building is carried by the town.
“It is insured by the town, the whole building,” said Treasurer Dan Rodin, adding they also have insurance for the use of the building as a recreation centre.
Council was asked if they would get a quote for demolition or just go by the $1.3 million estimate that is listed in the 2016 budget.
Rodin replied “let’s back up a bit. The problem with the school at this point in time is that it’s costing us about $33,000 to operate… It’s basically a bit like a money pit, we’re gonna wind up putting a lot of money into it over the next while to maintain the asset. It’s time now that we started thinking about what we do want to do with it.”
The next speaker said it is his understanding the building is currently serving more users than just North Island Community Services, and that fact isn’t being properly reflected in the report to council.
He added it is important to understand there are programs and possibilities for groups who may not be able to pay to use the building, but the town should be providing a service which would be reasonable to cover with tax dollars.
“Good point, that’s exactly why we have said we have no short-term plans,” said Ackland. “We are really looking strategically into the future to see if this is a building we want to keep, knowing exactly how much it actually brings to this community, and what exactly we should put in its place” if council chooses to do replace the building.
One resident asked how the process now moves forward.
“Typically when you have a public consultation, we consider all the information. As we said, there isn’t a plan for today, tomorrow, or the next month. We might decide we want another public consultation when we sort of filter down the kinds of thing that we might be considering,” said Ackland.
The schoolhouse will need to have major repairs.
The roof needs to be replaced, at a cost of about $260,000: the exterior plywood panels and cladding should be replaced: and energy-efficient doors and windows installed, with an estimated cost of between $500,000 – $700,000.