The Coast Mountains School District is open to leasing or selling vacant school district property – and they now have a policy to guide that process.
“As you can imagine, vacant buildings impose a considerable strain on the district’s operating budget (heat, security, snow clearing, building maintenance, etc.) – so it is certainly our intent to consider all options of leasing or sale – providing we have no use for them in the foreseeable future,” said school district secretary treasurer Alanna Cameron.
At the February school board meeting, the board finalized the new Disposal of Land or Improvements policy.
“It’s a new policy,” she said, noting interest in one of the vacant properties prompted them to write the policy.
“According to [provincial ministerial order] M193/08 and the School Act, sections 96(3), if districts wish to consider sale of property, they are to have a Disposal of Land or Improvements Policy in place,” she said.
The board financially benefits from the use or sale of these properties – the money either goes directly to the district to use in their budget, or to the ministry and filtered back down to the district.
“It’s a combination, depending on the particular circumstance – origin of the property and who holds title. Though in most cases, our district would benefit by receiving at least 25 per cent of the proceeds of sale,” she said. “The more immediate pay-off is through leasing where we’re not only passing off additional utility costs, but also generating lease revenue.”
There are 16 closed schools across the district, five of those in the Terrace area. Two of those Terrace properties – Jack Cook School and Copper Mountain Elementary – are currently leased. Kiti K’Shan Primary is also being used as district storage.
In Kitimat, the district has recently entered into a lease agreement with Rio Tinto Alcan for the use of Roy Wilcox Elementary.
“And we’ve managed to lease the former Kitimat City High facility,” she said.
The district also has an agreement with the City of Terrace for use of the gym at Thornhill Junior Secondary, which closed last year.
To date six community groups, including badminton, archery, volleyball, soccer, and the Kermode Friendship Society, are currently using the gym, said Carmen Didier, director of leisure services for the City of Terrace, noting it’s the gymnasium only, not the rest of the school.
The agreement works using short-term lease agreements, with the first running from October to December, and the latest started January and ends in March.
She anticipates they will continue using short-term lease agreements.
“The user groups are to cover operational expenses with revenue monies generated by user fees,” she said.
“User groups are also responsible for providing their own supervision, opening and closing the facility as well as cleaning up after their timeslot. To date all of the groups have fulfilled their responsibilities and there have not been any issues,” she said. “From the city’s perspective we are happy with this arrangement. It has kept a large facility open and available for community use.”