Poll

Blueberry Creek Community School Society buys land/school for $1

Kyra Hoggan
By Kyra Hoggan
October 29th, 2015

It’s been a long time coming, but the Blueberry Creek Community School Society now owns its facility and the property on which it stands, having purchased both from School District 20 (SD 20) for one dollar.

While that may sound like a poor deal for SD 20, it’s actually good news for virtually everyone involved, according to Board of Education chair Darrel Ganzert.

“There was a possibility that, if we put the building and grounds up for sale, the society would have to close their doors immediately, depriving 400 to 500 families of their services and programs,” Ganzert said. “We value the work they do, and they certainly get kids school-ready, which is a benefit for us.”

Ganzert said the facility itself is aged and crumbling, thus not one the SD wants to keep.

“The building requires hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairs over the next 10 years,” he said, explaining that the BCCS Society will, as owners, qualify for a ton of grant money for which they would not be eligible as long as they were only leasing from the SD, and for which the school district itself is not eligible at all. “We believe the society will be able to keep it in very good repair, which we could not do.

He also said there were caveats to the sale that protect the SD’s interests down the road, and to ensure it continues to operate to the benefit of the community as a whole.

“They can’t subdivide the land; there’s a non-compete clause so they can’t open up a private school, and we have right of first refusal to buy the land back, for $1, should the society decide to sell it,” he said, adding the society is also responsible for any legal costs arising in the process of ownership transfer.

In response to detractors claiming the assessed value of the property is upwards of $1 million, he pointed to a similar – but newer – property, the Beaver Valley Middle School, that has been on the market for over a year with an asking price of $225,000 and hasn’t sold.

“Assessed values don’t necessarily reflect market value,” he said. “We’re pleased to be able to allow the society to continue to serve hundreds of local families.”

The vote to sell, held back in October of 2014, was in camera, so trustees are only allowed to reveal how they voted, not how the other trustees voted, but Ganzert did confirm that it passed by, “a strong majority”.

Castlegar trustee Rosann Brunton had not yet taken her seat when the vote took place, but said she very much supports the sale, while Castlegar trustee Mickey Kinakin said he not only voted for it, he thinks it should be help up as an example for all of B.C.

“This is something that should be broadcast across the province as a kind of multijurisdictional cooperation that is rare, but that can benefit all citizens,” Kinakin said. “Instead of just selling the property, we keep it as a community asset to benefit seniors, pre-schoolers, everyone.”

Rebecca McDonnell, community liaison for the society, said they are thrilled at the outcome, and proud new owners (the transfer of ownership is now complete).

“That being said, there is a lot of work for us to so. It’s a big property – four acres – and it’s an old site,” she said. “Not only do we have to be sustainable operationally, now, but also in terms of infrastructure and capital.

“We’re a very small organization – we’re going to have to punch above our weight class and increase our capacity. We’re up for the challenge.”

She said the society is very grateful to the board of trustees.

“We’re delighted that the trustees believed in us and appreciate the programs we offer,” she said. “This was the ultimate show of confidence.”

Watch The Source for further coverage of the Blueberry Creek Community School Hub, and it’s progress and programming.

 

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