The District of Metchosin has purchased the Metchosin Elementary school, but the community won’t be able to reap the benefits for several years.
For the next five years, the school will be in the hands of a property management company and commercial realtor, who will be responsible for finding tenants and looking after the maintenance of the building.
“I’m a bit conflicted about it. This could have been a good news story, but it wasn’t … This could have been a sub-regional asset, but we have to now look at it as a commercial asset and run it for at least the next five years in a fashion to recover our expenditures,” Mayor John Ranns said. “What that means is there won’t be much community benefit from the new part of the school at least until that happens.”
The municipality purchased the roughly five-acre property on Happy Valley Road for $1.5 million from the Sooke School District and officially took possession on Oct. 31.
However, things didn’t go according to plan. The municipality was unable to secure provincial grant funding to help pay for part of the purchase, so the full amount was borrowed from the district’s general and police reserves – funds which must be replenished over the next five years.
In order to replenish those reserves, the school will be handed over to a property management company and a commercial realtor, which Ranns declined to name at this time, who will rent out the space for the maximum dollar.
The Metchosin Arts and Cultural Centre Association that currently occupies part of the school will remain in the space.
But the district is currently looking at other options for replenishing the reserves faster, including the potential sale of the five-acre Spellman Park at Lindholm Road and Spellman Place, which would need to be approved by referendum during the next municipal election. There is also the potential to re-designate the field at the Metchosin Elementary school as a park, and take funds from the Parkland Reserve Fund to help pay off the purchase, though neither option is set in stone.
Once the reserves have been paid off, the District can then look at using the facility for community purposes, including a sub-regional protective services training centre, theatre, or expanding the arts space.
“One thing we’re determined won’t happen is the school will be any kind of a financial drain on the municipality. It’s still evolutionary. We’re still searching out what we can do that will be of most benefit to the community,” Ranns said.
“But right now, what’s of most benefit to the community is to not have any financial obligations and to replenish our reserves. Our hope is to be able to turn that facility over to future councils and say ‘there you are, it’s all paid off and now you can use your imagination as to what public good can be achieved.’”