Houston Community Hall

Dungate Community Forest profits bolster community hall replacement

Coastal GasLink also being asked to make contribution

The District of Houston is reaching out to Coastal GasLink and has assigned the major portion of the 2019 profits it received from the Dungate Community Forest to bolster the money it needs to replace the aging community hall.

With a projected price tag in the neighbourhood of $4.9 million, the Dungate amount of $714,505 and a contribution, as of yet unknown, being sought from Coastal GasLink, plus money already in a reserve account, the District will have more than $1 million of the amount it needs.

That comes to approximately 20 per cent of the projected project cost with the remainder now being sought through a senior government grant. Any money from Coastal GasLink will reduce the amount the District has to provide by itself.

Council’s decision to use the Dungate profits of $714,505 replaces an original plan to use $946,415 from a provincial grant received in 2019 for either capital projects or planning. That amount is now back in reserve awaiting a council decision on how it should be used.

The decision to assign the money from the Dungate Community Forest was made by council Oct. 6 after first considering what it should do in July. It then deferred a decision pending recommendations from District staffers and from the Dungate board of directors.

The directors then told council in August their preference was to see Dungate monies directed to projects having a community-wide impact.

A new community hall topped the list of possible projects submitted by District staffers for consideration and is the most expensive. Other projects include an estimated $500,000 to revitalize Jamie Baxter Park, $550,000 to revitalize Alexandra Park and $275,000 for an outdoor skating rink.

The prospect of money from Coastal GasLink followed the company asking the District for a list of projects that would be considered as a legacy of its presence in the area from its construction of the pipeline to provide natural gas to the LNG Canada liquefied natural gas facility now under construction in Kitimat.

Legacy projects have the intent to provide something that lasts into the future as a community benefit and are often a gesture on the part of companies in recognition of a significant impact on the community.

“These are often good projects to undertake whereas funding would not normally be readily available or easily secured,” leisure services director Tasha Kelly noted in a memo to council discussed at its Oct. 6 meeting.

A list presented by Kelly for consideration ranged from an outdoor skating rink carrying an unconfirmed price tag of $275,000, to arena skate bar aids at $10,000, to a piano and public use shelter estimated at $12,000 for redone 9th Street to spending an estimated $15,000 for spin bikes.

A splash park, leisure facility water slide and a field house at 4 Seasons Park, costs for all three have yet to be estimated, rounded out the list.

Council then deferred a decision until its Oct. 20 meeting with Kelly providing an update.

“Coastal GasLink noted they are looking at projects/items that are generally around $10,000, although they are willing to consider a higher dollar value where there are multiple funding partners and they are a ‘finish line’ funding agent,” she told council in a memo.

A revised list within a $10,000 – $15,000 range included replacing arena skate bar aids, purchase of a piano and shelter for public use within the 9th St. improvement area and the purchase of stationary spin exercise bikes.

But council then decided to propose a contribution to the community hall replacement project instead.

Built at some point in the 1950s, the community hall is approaching the end of its useful life despite the renovations that took place over the years. More work is now needed, including replacing the roof within the next four years.

In addition, the hall’s lower level and associated rooms are not available for rent since they lack access for people with mobility challenges.

According to a study prepared for the district in 2017, the facility has a maximum 14 years left under the best circumstances.

A concept design for a new community hall is now underway but more than likely won’t be ready for council consideration until later this year, Kelly said.

The consultant was also asked to scout out potential other locations for a new community hall.

In addition to a design and potential new locations, consultants are also being asked to include energy-saving design features, and lifetime capital and operating costs.