Riondel residents may have to decide this summer whether to demolish their community centre.
A referendum last fall to renovate the building at a cost of $1.2 million was soundly defeated by 82 per cent.
With a resounding no to the renovation option, East Shore director Garry Jackman is taking steps to deal with the building as the maintenance costs are taxing.
Jackman has asked the regional district to have a package ready by June or July for a referendum to ask Riondel residents whether or not they want to demolish the aging building. Along with the request, the regional district will define the real costs of demolition.
“Historically the maintenance costs have been $53,000 for all three buildings and the surrounding grounds, excluding the regional park ball park,” said Jackman, adding the amount has been “inadequate”.
“We’ve eaten into the capital reserve to make miscellaneous repairs. We have to keep the building up to certain standard of maintenance in case the community decides to turn it into something.
“Our proposal this year is to move the budget up to $71,600 to cover some of the cost over-runs last year and some upcoming repairs.
Jackman said it brings up the question of what if they did not have the building, what if they consolidated their recreation into the curling rink building.
“But before you can do that, you need to know how much it will cost to remove the liability of the community centre,” he said. “That’s what this process will spell out. The cost of the complete demolition and the removal which would be the first step to consolidating all the community functions into one building.”
Jackman said it may or may not ever go to a vote but he wants to engage the community in a serious manner. He’s hoping it will spur serious discussion to help get a better idea what dollar amount residents are willing to commit.
He said “$1.2 million dollars was too much. I would be surprised if the demolition costs didn’t run plus or minus $300,000. It’s a fairly large building and it’s a long way from the transfer station.
“There is no zero cost solution for this community,” said Jackman. “Not having that building will cost five or 10 years of borrowing for the demolition costs, then the maintenance expenses would end.”
The community centre, the former J.A. Cochran school, was built in stages between the early 1950s and 1967. It sat empty from 1972 until 1979, when the regional district acquired it from the school district. However, it has never been renovated and retains its original appearance. In recent years it has been home to many groups, including the seniors society, art club, historical society, and library.
-With files from Greg Nesteroff