Fate of Bellevue Seniors Centre hangs in the air 0
A meeting held last week between Bellevue seniors and municipal administration aired concerns over the fate of a building described as the centre of the community. The meeting was called by members of the Bellevue Seniors' Centre to review their concerns over the possible closure of the building.
Talks between the municipality and the Bellevue Seniors Club have been ongoing since last winter over some aspects of the building's integrity and associated costs of repair.
A Facilities Audit conducted by Friesen Tokar Architects of Calgary highlighted a number of problems with the 1924 building, saying it was in very poor condition and had gone past its life expectancy. The results of this audit were presented to council at a budget meeting on Feb. 23.
Total operating costs in 2011 were $5,131. This includes utilities, insurance, maintenance and administrative costs.
The audit recommended that the brick chimney, roof and structural supports be replaced. In addition, it said there is water damage in the wall shared with the Bellevue Legion as well as electrical system concerns. The audit deemed the building unsafe and said it had gone past its life expectancy.
Myron Thompson, chief administrative officer, said replacing the original section of the roof is estimated at $19,000, while replacement of the chimney is estimated at $6,000. He cautioned that these figures were based on a regional average and were likely higher than what would be expected in the Pass.
He also said there were a number of electrical system deficiencies that would be considered a priority. If the work were carried out by external labour, it would be about $20,000.
"We have to look at the hard facts and what it will cost to bring [the building] up to a safe standard," said Thompson. "We'd have to spend major capital dollars to bring up the life expectancy."
The Club disputed some of the architectural firm's findings. A contractor's assessment of the roof from Reimer Construction Ltd. deemed the roof safe and said it needed only minor repairs in the amount of $1,000 to $1,500.
Justin Ames, a carpenter, also argued the amount of damage and said the parapet wall had deteriorated and needs repair but he believed that wall belonged to the Legion. He agreed the flashing should be replaced but said there were "no soft spots on the roof".
Thompson and Albert Headrick, director of protective and community services, were told the Bellevue Legion looked at the water leakage through the shared wall and agreed to repair their flashing.
At a previous meeting, municipal administration had suggested the Club consider relocating to the MDM Community Complex but the Bellevue Seniors Club members unanimously rejected that proposal.
"This centre is our community. Lots of things go on here that make it a living part of the community and neighbourhood of the Crowsnest Pass," said Tim Grier. "Closing [the Bellevue Seniors Centre] will close our community."
Alex Wells agreed. "We're very comfortable here. Moving to MDM would just destroy our senior citizens," he said.
Thompson agreed that the Centre was one of the mainstays of the community and said MDM is only an option. He stressed that there were many issues that would have to be resolved, such as transportation, and elevator and washroom access. He described the current meeting as one of fact-finding.
There was a discussion around prolonging the life of the Bellevue Seniors Centre such as attracting more utilization and making the facility open for other purposes, trying to access grant funds, and seeking a possible historical designation.
Moderator Bill Kovach reiterated that the Club wanted to keep the building alive and asked if they should go before council. He asked if they could lease it for another five years and have minor repairs made in the meantime.
Thompson said administration would look at what it would take to bring the building up to a safe standard and would discuss their findings with the Bellevue Seniors Club executive. He committed to doing the necessary electrical work by mid-summer.
Municipal mayor and councillors were also invited to the meeting but declined the invitation. In a letter from Mayor Bruce Decoux to the Club, he said the meeting had "not been designated public by our CAO (which he cannot do without express permission of council)".
"By attending. we would, at this stage of the proceedings, be reinforcing a public misconception as to 'how Councils are mandated to do business'. Further we would, by our very presence, be detracting from and disrespecting the role and performance of the CAO."
The letter goes on to state that after the CAO reports to council and makes a recommendation, the Seniors group could then address council as a delegation.
Several people in attendance at Tuesday's meeting expressed dissatisfaction with his decision not to attend.
"We're greatly disadvantaged by not being able to speak to our elected officials, said Grier. "There's nothing to prevent elected officials from coming to speak to the people."
Larry Ruzek agreed. "I'm very disappointed that the mayor didn't show up. It's an issue that impacts our community."