Given notice – In an effort to make use of grant funding, community centre may use an existing building

A community centre may be a little bit closer to becoming a reality for Fort St. James.

A community centre may be a little bit closer to becoming a reality for Fort St. James.

Mayor Rob MacDougall said negotiations are currently underway on a purchase price for a building which could be repurposed as a community centre.

“For us, a stand-alone new construction isn’t feasible for the size of the tax base and the other commitments we have to infrastructure,” said MacDougall.

In the interest of finding a way to move forward, and with the potential loss of $900,000 in grant funding looming on the horizon, mayor and council and the community hall  committee looked at a couple of options, including the old gymnasium at Fort St. James Secondary School and the building which houses the Victory Christian Centre and what was the Birch Theatre.

The latter building is owned by the Goodwin family’s property company Columbine Investments Ltd..

While a dollar figure for the Christian centre and theatre building has not yet been agreed upon, negotiations are underway and if one is found which can accommodate the budget of the community hall committee, then mayor and council, in consultation with the committee, will vote on moving the process forward.

MacDougall said he is hoping to see some movement within the next month once a building cost is determined.

“This is the best choice that we have and we’re in dire need of a community centre,” said MacDougall and he wants to be able to move forward on the hard work the committee has done in securing the funding they have.

After a couple of extensions for some of it, the province has given notice the $900,000 in provincial grant funding which had been allotted to a new community hall will need to be used or at least allocated to a solid project plan before March 31, 2013.

The notice came in a letter from Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development Bill Bennett in response to a meeting at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention with Mayor Rob MacDougall and Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad.

Bennett said the Towns for Tomorrow program is ending in 2013, and there is still a large shortfall if Fort St. James stayed with the proposed construction of a $3.8 million building next to the arena which the committee had come up with. Bennett advised MacDougall to speak to the mayor of Elkford, a community which overcame a similar dilemma.

MacDougall said he looked at the building in Elkford, but he did not consult their mayor as the cost of new construction would still have been too high and the timelines involved for new construction before the funding expires are too short.

The push to build a new community centre, something Fort St. James has been without since 1982, started with a donation of $500,00 from the Hoy family in 2007.

The District of Fort St. James has now taken out a loan request for $280,000 to contribute to the project.

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