An artist’s rendering of the proposed community hall

Down but not out

A large grant which was earmarked for the community hall will need to be redirected or it will disappear.

A large grant which was earmarked for the community hall will need to be redirected or it will disappear.

A grant of $400,000 was given to the District of Fort St. James towards the building of the Fort St. James community hall. The funding was part of the Towns for Tomorrow grant funding being distributed by the province.

However, the money did have an expiry, and has already gotten one extension. So because there is no possibility the community hall will be able to be built before the final deadline of March 31, 2013, the mayor and council must decide on somewhere else to allocate the funding.

The current mayor and council, however, have deferred the decision of  redirecting the funding because they didn’t want to commit the incoming mayor and council to something.

So far, some senior staff for the district have put forward some options for capital projects which they would like to put forward for the funding, but are waiting for direction on which projects would be eligible.

Projects proposed so far include: downtown revitalization, a skateboard park, arena upgrades, sidewalk and storm sewer extensions,  paving, water treatment, sewage lagoon upgrades, water main upgrades, water pumping station backup, and water reservoir upgrades.

The loss of the $400,000 in funding is a set back, but it is not stopping the community hall committee from continuing with their plans to build a gathering place for the community.

“Is it a loss – absolutely,” said Ann McCormick, committee member, but McCormick said the group has been working to prepare a brochure in order to go out and lobby the community for further funding and pursue corporate sponsors.

While the project was stalled when the economic downturn came and government funding dried up, and the group is now looking at $1 million in initial funding instead of the $1.4 million they had last year, McCormick is optimistic about the project.

“It’s the perfect fit, it’s the perfect storm for us that the plans are ready, the opportunity is there and we already have some initial money,” she said.

The committee will also be applying for grant funding through the recently announced $30 million provincial recreation program funding. Premier Christy Clark announced the funding for community recreation facilities in September.

They will also be looking for funding from the Northern Development Initiative Trust, which will match a percentage of funding secured.

“We couldn’t be doing this unless we’d done the work prior,” said McCormick.

The committee was appointed over three years ago, when the Hoy family announced an initial donation to the community hall of $500,000. This amount was then matched by the community itself, and the Towns for Tomorrow funding was secured.

Since the committee was struck, they have worked to decide on a site, and plans have been drawn up.

The building would be next to the arena, utilizing the existing facilities of the arena to help keep some of the costs of the hall down as well, which are expected to be between $3.4 million and $4 million.

The hall would seat 250 people and the architectural style would help to match it to the downtown revitalization theme of the community, and would include a new face for the arena to keep with the theme.

“A lot of volunteer time has gone in by the committee over the last number of years,” said McCormick, who called it an “exciting project for the town.”