The Saltair Community Centre building. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Saltair Centre Saga and history

A lemon or lemonade perspective

Re: The Saltair Community Centre.

Lemon- The Mount Brenton School sold by the School Board for $650,000 to a private person after it had been a public asset for 50 years.

Lemonade- Ten years elapsed since the sale and the buyers knew the problems of P1 institutional zoned property. Property put on sale as part of a quick estate sale for $495,000 and eventually bought by the CVRD for $300,000.

Lemon- Fear of buying an old building after horror stories told about the Port Alberni Senior Secondary School and the Bank in Nanaimo told by two attendees at the public meeting. Millions to tear down asbestos loaded buildings (which the school was not) caused angst.

Lemonade- It triggered studies for asbestos, air quality and water quality which is a good thing so we can be aware of the building status.

Lemon- The residents did not know how to evaluate the numbers and interpretation of what the studies actually mean to the status of the building.

Lemonade-Interpretation by CVRD staff of reports to know that simple remediation and precaution could eliminate the dangers.

Lemon- A dispute between initial Saltair Society board members whether to form a Commission under the CVRD like the Parks Commission or form a Non Profit Society independent of the CVRD with less taxation.

Lemonade- The Society Board was cut in half and became a cohesive and directed effort to move forward with a Society and operate the building as a community centre.

Lemon- Gas tax money controlled by CVRD staff for CVRD directed projects.

Lemonade- Move made to move the control of gas tax money to Electoral Areas which allowed gas tax to be used on the Saltair Centre as $130,000 for upgrades and $256,000 for the water system.

Lemon- Protest in the community to spend money on the Centre as wasted money.

Lemonade- Made all residents aware that the Centre was now owned by the community through the CVRD.

Lemon-Engineering Report done to see what needs to done to bring the Centre up to standard. The Naysayers went wild with a petition and went door to door saying $3,000,000 would be needed to bring the Centre up to standard. Not so.

Lemonade- The Society got its own estimates as what is needed to be spent to fix the building. The cost of the roof, the furnaces and the gym reno were seen to be much less than the engineering report. Turned out needed no rise in taxes.

Lemon- Long delays and time being used up by bureaucracy and doing all the studies.

Lemonade-It allowed time to pay off the cost of the building. Money was built up in reserves and the Society savings allowed upgrades in the furnace to be done. The Society built a strong foundation of users.

Lemon- A resident filed a complaint with Worksafe BC about a leaking roof.

Lemonade- This changed the status of the building from a planned renovation to an emergency. This forced the Society to do the upgrades now.

Lemon- The CVRD forced to honour its lease with the Society by keeping the building in safe condition. The Society was also forced to honour its agreement with the Daycare. About 60 children and nine daycare workers depend on it. Arts groups have also made investments in the building as well.

Lemonade- The CVRD needed to speed up the upgrades. The current budget with no rise in taxation will allow the upgrades to proceed because the building will be paid off. Time actually helped fix the money problem. The $130,000 gas tax along with $31,000 reserve and a small loan will allow this to happen now.

The finances for the building are now secure for the next five years with no rise in taxes.

Mel Dorey


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