Port McNeill’s old school building might be getting a new lease on life.
A report from the Town of Port McNeill’s Treasurer, Dan Rodin, was on the agenda at the town’s regular council meeting Monday, Oct. 17.
Rodin opened his report by asking council to “give direction to staff regarding how they want staff to proceed with the issue of what should be done with the old school.”
The town obtained the old school site from the local school district around 1980, and “In 2015, council approved hiring consultants to assess the fascia and roofs of certain community owned buildings,” wrote Rodin.
The town was advised that: The roof should be replaced within the next five years. The current cost was estimated at $260,000; and
The exterior plywood panels and cladding should be replaced on a phased basis during the period of 2022 – 2026. At the same time the panels or cladding is replaced, the doors and windows should be replaced with more efficient ones. The current cost was estimated at $500,000 – $700,000.
It is believed that if the windows and doors were not replaced the cost would be in the area of $200,000 – $300,000.
“The major tenant of the facility is North Island Community Services (NICS),” added Rodin, who explained the building’s current status. “In 2015 staff was directed by council to extend the existing lease for one year and to also advise NICS that the lease might not be renewed. The lease expires December 31, 2016.”
NICS currently pays $12,000 per year to lease the space, and “the net cost to the town of keeping the facility open is approximately $33,000 per annum,” wrote Rodin.
In his option analysis, Rodin listed six possible suggestions on what to do with the old school, which are as follows:
1. Closing the school and prepare for demolition (this option would probably save the town about $33,000 per annum in the short term, but the town would lose the building space);
2. Develop a financial strategy to replace roof and fascia (this would enable the town to keep the building for at least another 15-20 years if new boilers were also done, but unless the town could attract more tenants or improve the lease with NICS, the town would continue to incur an annual deficit of $33,000);
3. Extend existing lease and continue to subsidize NICS operations (the current lease could simply be rolled over until council has sufficient information on which to base a long-term solution, but maintaining the status quo would mean the town would incur costs of approximately $33,000 per year);
4. Renegotiate lease and close school if lease negotiation unsuccessful (this would attempt to shift more of the cost of operating the facility to the prime tenant, but if the school is closed the prime tenant may have to spend more money obtaining space elsewhere. The increased financial pressure may also cause the tenant to re-locate to another town);
5. Sell school (selling the school would significantly reduce the future financial cost to the town, but the town would then no longer have the property); and
6. Repurpose school or property (this would mean the land would still be used for public purposes, but the town would have to make a significant financial contribution to the project and it would reduce the amount of land that could be used for commercial or residential development).
Rodin concluded by asking council to “review the information contained in this report and by resolution provide guidance to staff on how council wishes staff to continue with the issue of the old school facility.”
Council looked over the information at the meeting and stated they “wanted to go through a process of public consultation to review what should be done,” said Rodin, adding that the residents of Port McNeill “are more than welcome to attend the public consultation on Dec. 5, at 6 p.m.”
Councillor Jay Dixon added that he’s “looking forward to hearing from local community members about what they feel the future of the old school should be,” and that he personally believes that the town needs “to make some long term plans as to what buildings should be kept and what we should be looking at for new infrastructures.”
Port McNeill Mayor Shirley Ackland felt Rodin “did a great job on the research to help council,” adding that she thinks it was a good idea to “open the discussion up to the public for comment. This will be a great opportunity for the community to have that discussion on what they feel should be done with the old school.”