Judging by the turnout and comments made at a meeting in Millet’s community hall May 29, it looks likely town council will look into acquiring the vacant Millet School building.
The meeting, organized by Millet town council to gauge support for the idea of acquiring the Millet School building and property, featured mayor Tony Wadsworth and most of town council, along with Town CAO Teri Pelletier, plus Wetaskiwin Regional Public Schools board chair Lynn Ware and superintendent Terry Pearson.
Wadsworth began the presentation by giving a detailed overview of the school’s size and layout. He noted the original building was constructed in 1930, with additions in 1955, 1959, 1965 and 1984. The school has multiple floors plus a gymnasium of 2,490 square feet. The gymnasium/office section is the only one that has wheelchair access.
The total square footage of the building is roughly 15,384 noted Wadsworth.
The mayor said the town itself could use more space, as the current town office is full; as well, most other town buildings don’t have space available. Wadsworth said the town could really use more space for meetings rooms, the peace officer, staff and a storage vault, plus other demands.
He also noted if the town moved out of its current building on Hwy #2A, the Millet Museum and Visitor Centre could expand.
Even if the town took over the school, Wadsworth pointed out there would still be lots of available space in the school. Wadsworth stated input from the community could decide what fills that space.
At a previous open house Mar. 29, many suggestions were made by the community, including playschool, teen space, daycare, police, counseling and cannabis facility to name a few. More suggestions made later included a satellite health clinic, seniors space, playground and space for various recreation activities. Wadsworth mentioned it would be great to see a seniors space right next to a daycare, so the two groups could interact.
However, the mayor stated there are some practicalities that must be understood before the town could accept the school. First, he noted the school board described the annual operating costs of the school are around $50,000; Wadsworth noted this would roughly equal a 2.5 per cent tax increase if the cost were placed directly with Millet taxpayers. One resident estimated this would equate to $100 a year to the average taxpayer.
He noted the school would also likely require a full inspection that could cost up to $70,000.
It was mentioned by several people in the audience that the County of Wetaskiwin would likely have maintenance records for Millet School, as the county and school division used to be part of the same organization.
Wadsworth said the school appears to have been well maintained. Also, in 2030 the school is eligible for Heritage Building status.
Wadsworth cautioned that, even so, it is possible the school will require upgrades or renovation to meet certain codes, which could be expensive.
The mayor noted, however, that the Millet Library will likely require some renovations soon, but the town could instead direct those funds to the school, have the library relocate in the school and place the current library building up for sale. Wadsworth also stated the Millet Library is seeing increased usage, and could also benefit from more space.
WRPS superintendent Pearson and board chair Ware both mentioned at the meeting the school division is offering the school and grounds to the Town of Millet free of charge.
Pearson also noted he suspects WRPS would be patient with the Town of Millet as the town makes a decision about the school.
Several residents spoke up about the lack of childcare options in and around Millet and it would be great to have one in the old school. One lady mentioned an effort currently underway in Millet to start a daycare society.
Another man said he represented an athletic training business which has athletes come to train from all over Alberta and he was very interested in what the Millet School could offer his organization.
Several times at the meeting it was mentioned that asbestos has been found in the school. However, it was also noted the material is sealed in floors and walls and, unless disturbed, should pose no problem.
The nature of the discussion was positive, with many speakers supporting the idea of the town acquiring the school, while no negative comments were made.
CAO Pelletier said town council would discuss the topic at a council meeting in June where she suspected they would talk about things like an inspection for the property.