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SCRD debates who should pay for community halls

P 5 A granthams hall pic

Granthams Hall needs $405,000 in repairs, which has prompted a debate about how and where the SCRD funds community halls. Donna McMahon photo

Granthams residents are urging the SCRD to proceed quickly with repairs to Granthams Hall, which has been closed for over two years, and their appeal sparked a debate between directors over who should pay for community halls in the rural areas.

Granthams Hall, originally built in 1931 as a United Church, has been a community hall since 1943. In 2009, the building was turned over to the SCRD as part of the dissolution of the Granthams Landing Improvement District, which operated the hall, an artesian well, and a water system serving 83 households.

Karen Careless and Len Hartley appeared as a delegation to the SCRD Corporate and Administrative Services Committee on July 27. Careless, who was vice chair of the Improvement District at the time it dissolved, said that the hall used to pay for itself from rental revenue. (The SCRD’s staff report noted that in 2010 there were 462 events held at the hall—more than one per day.)

Careless said that the four properties owned by the improvement could not be separated, and so were all turned over to the SCRD as “a package deal.”

“In return for these priceless assets, the regional district committed to upgrade and maintain the hall and to improve water lines on Central and Elphinstone Avenues. To date the water lines on Central are the only things that have been completed.”

“We are not naive in recognizing how much work the hall requires,” said Careless, but: “we want the agreement honoured and our hall functioning now.”

Repairs needed by Granthams Hall include a new foundation, new roof, accessible washroom, electrical system upgrade, parking and a new septic system, for a total estimated cost of $405,000.

Design and engineering costs of $66,400 were previously approved from Area F Gas Tax funds. Staff recommended funding the remainder through Area F Gas Tax funds ($138,600), the IPP Community Benefit Funds ($100,000) and short term borrowing ($100,000). The SCRD has applied for two grants for the project which could bring in up to $242,000, but those grants may not be approved.

Area D Director Mark Lebbell broadened the scope of the committee’s discussion, arguing out that residents of the rural areas do not benefit equally from spending on community halls. The SCRD presently operates one community hall in Halfmoon Bay, and two each in Elphinstone and West Howe Sound, but none in Roberts Creek or Pender Harbour.

Lebbell pointed out that the Roberts Creek Hall, which is a heritage building with similar issues to Granthams, is maintained by community volunteers. He also noted that Eric Cardinall Hall, operated by the SCRD, is only a short distance from Granthams.

Area F Director Ian Winn said he understood Lebbell’s concerns from a coastwide perspective, but contended that the SCRD has a “duty of care” in this case because the Granthams community had turned over the hall on the understanding that the SCRD would operate it as a functioning community hall.

“We need to listen to what our community is telling us,” said Winn.

After discussion, directors moved staff’s recommendations, with the proviso that if the grant applications are successful, the money will be used to pay back the Community Parks function. The motion passed four to one with Lebbell opposed.

Donna McMahon

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