Steelhead Multicultural Society delegate Brenda Andersson spoke to council last Tuesday to see if councillors would reconsider their stance on taking up the Via Rail building.
“Before we write to Via Rail and say, ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’ I thought maybe there was an opportunity for council to take a look at this and see whether there’s some other initiatives,” said Andersson.
Andersson recognized that council is reluctant to take on more infrastructure but pointed to certain grants that can help. She pointed to the rural dividend fund to finance blueprints or research into the community’s sentiments.
“Before we actually, as a community, turn our back on the building, we might want to spend that time and find that out,” she said.
The fund cannot be used to pay for capital or infrastructure projects, Andersson said, but they could apply for Northern Development Initiative Trust grants to do the renovations.
The District estimates the building needs $100,000 in renovations, and Andersson confessed that no volunteer group can singlehandedly take on such a liability.
She also mentioned that she has “no answers” to the problem of the year-to-year expenses.
“Maybe there’s a way for this building to make enough money to cover its core operating costs,” she said. “But you all know how difficult that is.”
Andersson said she is willing to collaborate with other groups.
Coun. Rick Lundrigan asked if she has approached the farmers’ market, as they need water supply and bathroom facilities.
Andersson said they are a viable partner but will not be able to take on the building’s costs. She highlighted that an entity needs to take on the lease and pay for its operating costs.
“Unfortunately, the municipality is the best option for that,” she said.
Last December, council decided that it would not take on the Via Rail building because of liability concerns and the renovation costs, with Coun. Rick Lundrigan voicing his opposition most strongly.
Instead, they allowed the Society to negotiate a lease with Via Rail.
The other option was for the District to buy the building for $1 and lease the land for $1 per year.
Back then, Coun. John Siebenga highlighted he preferred that option because the District would be able to develop what he considered an “eyesore.”
He also cautioned that the Society has a poor track record of making progress in the decade it has had to move forward with its plans.