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Saltair residents lay out the groundwork for a referendum on community centre

Petition at meeting gathers names to give the community a say on the building’s future

The former Mount Brenton Elementary School and current Saltair Community Centre is a hot topic in Saltair.

What to eventually do with the old building? Retain it and fix it up? Tear it down and rebuild a potentially smaller building to serve the community? Or dispense with having a community centre altogether?

And what about the cost to taxpayers and the availability of other funding for these options and possible variations?

These are all questions that won’t be answered right away, but sprung to prominence again following the release this summer of a McCuaig &Associates Engineering report on the condition of the building and it does not paint a pretty picture.

This follows on the heels of a North West Environmental asbestos and air quality report a year ago that determined the mold spore count in the gymnasium was 55 times higher than normal. Along with falling ceiling tiles, that resulted in the gymnasium’s closure and being sealed off from the rest of the building.

McCuaig, commissioned by the Cowichan Valley Regional District to complete the assessment, determined the building is in need of major upgrades and repairs that will surpass $3 million over 10 years to bring everything up to standard and current codes.

Saltair News &Views hosted a meeting Sunday at the Chemainus 55+ Activity Centre to bring everyone up to speed on the latest developments. Nearly 100 people attended and listened to a very concise presentation from Lynne Smith on behalf of the group.

The major push was to get everyone to sign a petition for a referendum, regardless how each individual feels about how to proceed. If approved, a referendum would likely be conducted at the same time as the fall 2018 civic elections.

The referendum is being sought to see how Saltair residents feel about spending Saltair tax and grant money on restoring the building.

“The petition is to ask the CVRD for a referendum for all of us to have a say, yes or no,” stressed Smith. “By signing the petition, you are saying you want a say.”

It was hard for anyone to argue that, since it was not asking for a firm opinion one way or the other. Even Area G Saltair-Gulf Islands Director Mel Dorey, who attended the meeting as a resident and taxpayer rather than in his official CVRD capacity, signed the petition.

A limited number of questions was taken after the meeting. It was intended primarily as an informative process rather than having people argue for one approach over another at this stage.

“Saltair’s voice needs to be heard so we can all live more comfortably,” added Smith. “It’s by all of us having the democratic process.

“There is a voice and people are concerned. The CVRD is not coming to us. I see value in us moving forward.

“I’m proud of the group. We’ve been working together to orchestrate this as a forward motion for everyone.”

More details on the McCuaig report and other pertinent information is available on the Saltair News and Views website at

The Saltair Community Society currently operates the centre, with income generated from Inquiring Little Minds Daycare as the anchor tenant and other groups occupying some of the space, with more available for rentals.

The property and five and half acres was purchased by the CVRD in 2014 at a cost of $300,000. It was bought without a full building assessment and now the McCuaig report has brought those condition details to light.

The 37-page Facility Condition Assessment and 47-page Gymnasium report was issued on July 21. It rated the building overall in “fair condition”, meaning it requires intervention.

The 67-year-old building was determined to have a design service life of between 50 and 100 years. The report cited 31 components as being in fair condition, eight in poor condition and six in very poor condition.


Don Bodger

About the Author: Don Bodger

I've been a part of the newspaper industry since 1980 when I began on a part-time basis covering sports for the Ladysmith-Chemainus Chronicle.
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