$1 million plus needed for community halls
Clearview’s community halls are in need of more than $1 million in repairs according to an engineering report presented at a special meeting of Council last Thursday and, after further discussion that evening between the Council, Township staff and hall board members, that appears to be just the beginning of what it would take to have the halls meet provincial standards.
The report, a Facility Assessment presented by Mina Tesseris of Burnside and Associates, outlined the costs of meeting current accessibility standards as well as structural and fire protection systems that are in need of major repair at the Sunnidale, Avening, Nottawa, Duntroon, Brentwood and Dunedin Halls and Community Centres.
“The buildings are more than 50 years old and have not undergone recent major renovations with the exception of the Sunnidale Corners Community Centre,” said the report. “All of the buildings do not meet current standards for barrier-free accessibility.” Though accessibility improvements are not mandatory at this point, hall boards have been advised that any major renewals could trigger the need to comply with them. The estimated price for suggested upgrades spans from $58,000 in Brentwood to $293,000 in Avening.
And that could be just the beginning. A full assessment by the Clearview Fire Department and the Electrical Safety Authority, which was ordered by Council Thursday night and will begin immediately, could find more pressing repairs at hand.
Currently the hall boards, which operate as Committees of Council, maintain break-even budgets, have small reserves and no money allotted to them in the Township budget. This leaves major renewal projects a near impossibility without significant fundraising and preparations. Long term project planning, however, does not seem to be an option at this time.
“These are issues we have to address immediately,” said Deputy Director of Public Works Steve Sage, outlining the safety and liability concerns of the Township.
Clearview Deputy Fire Chief Colin Shewell said the worst case scenario could see the locks go on the doors and hall operations stop immediately. “It is not our desire to see this happen,” he said, “but we have very strict guidelines and if we see a serious life safety issue we have no choice. For all other issues we will create a list and a timeline and work with halls to help them comply to any orders.”
Hall board members, who maintain the aging buildings, appear acutely aware of their facilities’ needs but are also profoundly concerned about the prospects for their halls and the resources required to keep a tradition alive.
“There is so much history and community spirit that is centred on our hall, as in all the community halls in Clearview Township,” said Carol Rowbotham, Chair of the Avening Hall Board. “My grandfather, father, uncles, all helped to bring the hall to this community, and worked hard to provide for the future for the families of this community. My mom and dad, aunts and uncles, cousins, siblings, niece, nephews, my husband, my kids and myself have continued this work, with eons of volunteer hours to keep the doors open. I’m not sure how to look positively to the future. The labour and time required to oversee these renos would be more than one full time job to complete. But this is our community. What do we do?”
According to the Township’s Recreation Master Plan, created in 2007, the thing to do is build a new central multi-purpose facility in 2017 and to consider “the ongoing viability of smaller community halls.” But with growth currently stalled and several capital projects on the Township’s wish list, including a new Stayner library, Council seems open to finding a creative way to keep the individual halls open.
“Our halls are a very important part of our community,” said Mayor Ken Ferguson, stressing that Council is committed to working with the various boards to figure out what the community wants for these buildings. As to whether they are viable or not is going to have to be decided through a yet-to-be-determined process.
Karen Cubitt, also from the Avening Hall Board, was able to outline a process she was personally comfortable with. “I think it is important to affirm that the health and safety of our community members, and those who utilize our hall, is of critical importance to us,” she said. “The value of the facility – its uses, and its role in community engagement – and maintaining these in some form is our next priority.”
She continued, “I think the Hall Board needs to be afforded the time to consult with our community to discuss why we value the hall, identify specific community needs that this civic space addresses, and determine how to best meet these needs in the long term. There are clearly a lot of uncertainties still at play. What I am certain of is that this community won’t put forth any recommendation that doesn’t honour the legacy of our families and neighbours who taught us the importance of community and who gave us this space to celebrate and foster it.”