A referendum on borrowing $1.2 million to renovate the Riondel community centre was resoundingly defeated Saturday.
Only 31 people voted in favour of the proposal while 116 voted against. Turnout was 66 per cent. The proposal, favoured by nearly three quarters of eligible residents in a straw vote this summer, would have seen part of the former school torn down and the rest renovated.
East Shore regional director Garry Jackman said the community worked its way through several options with the help of consultants, but only one concept can be voted on at a time.
“The [referendum] result was that this is not the most viable or affordable option,” he said. “Community members have already begun to consider where to go from here.”
Jackman said he and senior Regional District of Central Kootenay staff are speaking with the local commission of management to assess all services in Riondel “and look at factors which impact the bottom line affordability of community amenities. I have been seeking this review for some time now.”
Resident Danielle Linn, a member of the commission of management, said she has “huge health concerns which are being ignored by the RDCK despite the many reports outlining the building's hazards. There are no laws protecting us from this contaminated building which is full of mould, poor ventilation and many other problems.”
Linn said a petition has so far gathered 58 signatures asking for health standards to be adhered to and for no more money to be spent on the building. “The referendum results speak loudly yet our health concerns are not being addressed. This building needs to be closed. The most valuable asset in life is health,” she said.
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.