Organizations or entities interested in taking over the property and operations of the former Millet School building are being asked to provide proposals to Wetaskiwin Regional Public Schools (WRPS) by May 31, 2018.
Approximately 30 school division, Town of Millet and community representatives attended a March 21 open house at the school gymnasium to discuss alternative uses for the school and gauge public interest.
WRPS board of trustees chair Lynn Ware informed the crowd the purpose of the open house was for the school division and town council to see if multiple groups within the community would be willing to form a partnership to occupy the building, and to educate people on the disposition of property regulation process.
Following the closure of the school in June of 2017, regulations require the school division pass a motion to deem the property surplus and gain approval from the ministry.
The property can then be transferred to another interested party or parties. If no one is interested in the property the division will have to sell; get two fair market value quotes and either go to tender or auction.
When asked if there is no interest in a title transfer or purchasing the property Sherri Senger, associate superintendent of business, said the division may have to request funds to demolish the building. “It’s not something we want to do, but when push comes to shove.”
Senger added the school division cannot support the property sitting empty and there is a concern of deterioration the longer it is left.
Attendees questioned Senger on the state of the building, as that could be a contributing factor in groups’ interest in the property.
Senger says there is known asbestos in floor tiles in some areas of the building. She added if the school had been kept open the floor was scheduled to be replaced.
Overall, the building is in decent shape. “There’s very little in poor condition,” said Senger.
The building was audited in 2015 and the costs of the building named in the document total $1 million.
However, Senger says the audit is somewhat misleading, as some projects included in the $1 million are there on a replacement schedule but do not need to be replaced yet.
Any renovations to the building would be on top of the $1 million.
For the town to take over the building council would be compelled to complete an inspection of the building, estimated at $70,000.
The upkeep and operation of the building is $50,000 per year.
Mayor Tony Wadsworth says the council has been in talks with WRPS since last fall because the Town of Millet feels it is in the best interest of the community to keep the building open. “We’d like to see if we can find a way to make it happen.”
Wadsworth added the council cannot commit $70,000 in good conscience at this time, without the commitment of interested community groups to help fill the space and contribute to the costs of the building.
Town of Millet councillor Robin Books says he would like to see the school division pay part of the $70,000.
The building was renovated in the 1980s and 1990s, and the roof was redone in the past five to seven years.
The open house centered on many alternative ideas for the building but was not an official discussion.
Ideas tossed around during the evening included town office space, the library, a playschool, seniors drop in centre, Communities in Bloom office space, tourism offices, wellness groups to rent the space, adult education space, sports centre, church space and even a honey and/or cheese manufacturing plant.
WRPS trustee Barb Johnson also mentioned a teen drop in centre. “There’s not a lot for them to do so they’re getting into trouble.”
Brooks says with the Leduc and Wetaskiwin Chambers of Commerce joining to create the fourth largest chamber in the province the organization may want to consider central offices in Millet.
Town of Millet councillor Pat Garrett says the space could also be used for a RCMP satellite office in the community, or disaster relief space or bylaw offices.
Moving the Millet and District Museum was also suggested, however, with the expenses involved it would not be feasible.
Wadsworth suggested, to make the building less expensive to operate, removing one or two additions made to the building and keeping only the gymnasium/central offices and the original school structure.
Garrett says in terms of grant funding for capital, the County of Wetaskiwin could be approached as a resource.
By using the building as a hub for many community organizations, their current properties, the ones owned by the town, such as the Millet Public Library, could be sold at fair market value.
“In order for this to succeed there has to be a group of people who want to see it succeed,” said Johnson.