The old Mount Brenton School sold to private interests for $650,000 years ago and then was put up for sale for $750,000 some years later. The school was the social centre of Saltair with school activities and community functions when it was operating. We were socially poorer when it closed.
Then three years ago in an estate settlement with a rush to sell, it came on the market again which seemed like a great opportunity to get our social community back again from private interests. The CVRD then bought the school with five and a half acres of prime real estate for $300,000.
From the studies of psychologists and social scientists it is proven that communities with lots of opportunities for social interaction are happier communities. The more opportunities you have to meet and relate to people the happier you will be. Having a chat with someone, even a stranger, causes a release of the happy hormone called ocytocin into the bloodstream.
And it is also important to be able to walk or bike these events for a healthier body and less weight gain. Exercising releases endorphins into the bloodstream and if you walk on a natural trail you get an extra dose. Having a facility in your community is better than having one in a neighbouring community where you have to drive.
Saltair Community Society continues to successfully operate the community centre. Income is generated from monthly rental fees received from anchor tenant Inquiring Little Minds Daycare. The daycare also covers a good portion of utility expenses such as electricity and heating.
ILM was already in operation prior to the purchase of the property by the CVRD and have single handedly kept the interior of the classrooms and common areas in good repair. Economically, they employ up to nine staff and provide sought after daycare space for up to 60 children. Daycare is an important service to our community.
The Society is in the process of securing other community service oriented renters to further bolster anchor tenant income funds. This rental income is being accrued with the intention to contribute financially to the upgrades to the building. Various rooms are still available for social events, public meetings, educational training, Parks Commission, Advisory Planning Commission, SDRA, Elections, garden clubs, arts and crafts groups and photography studio use.
The Saltair Community Building Condition Assessment report will be utilized to apply for applicable grant funding. Social fund raising and donation events are also being planned to assist with future upgrade costs.
The financial contributions by taxpayers has been very reasonable and fair to date considering what they are getting. During the purchase period over five years it is costing each family in Saltair about $40 per year which is about a half a tank of gas.
There was a building assessment done by a Vancouver Engineering firm that said it would be $3,000,000 to put the building into like new condition. This is a scary number unless you analyze all the details. We don’t need to reclad the whole building with hardi plank when a good paint job would do. We don’t need new floors, windows or doors. The users will not mind the patina of age and character.
We do need a good roof. There are four roofs on the building and a phased approach can be taken. One roof needs to be fixed soon and we have $130,000 of federal gas tax grants to help with that. It is hoped the continued rate of taxation will allow the building to be used well into the future. The CVRD is drawing up a financial plan for moving forward that will be amenable to the public. We need to be patient.
Unfortunately, there is a naysayer group of about six who are out in the community trying to undermine the project using fear and intimidation. This is having a very negative effect on the emotional well-being of Saltarians and community spirit. This is exactly the opposite of what the project was supposed to do.
We need a wait-and-see approach. Let the Society continue and prove the centre is viable and needed.
Mel Dorey, Area G Director, Saltair and the Islands, CVRD