The Town of Qualicum Beach council directed staff to install a portable electric heater in the historic St. Andrews Lodge in November of 2020.
The town agreed to shoulder the utility costs until the end of December but at the start of this year, the resposibility was to be transfered to the St. Andrew’s Lodge Historical and Cultural Society, which agreed to take over the eventual operation of the heritage building once the group is officially established.
Coun. Teunis Westbroek stated the society should not be required to pay electrical costs until they are able to start work on building. He made a motion for council to provide the group with the keys to the building.
“I don’t think you can charge a tenant for utility bills unless they have access to the building,” said Westbroek. “I think in this case, for them to get started and I think they’re really keen to get going on it, they need access to the building. I think a key would be a sign saying , ‘OK, you’re on.'”
Mayor Brian Wiese said the town made a deal that the society will pay for utility bills at the start of 2021. The town plans to invoice the society once it is formed for the cost to power and heat the lodge. He had no problem granting access to the group but town staff advised against it.
Corporate administrator and deputy CAO Heather Svensen said until a proper lease agreement is signed, the town won’t be able to just hand over the keys.
“Just for liability purposes, it is a town-owned property and we have insurance on it,” Svensen explained. “So there would be requirements that we would have to get into place before we could give them access.”
Coun. Scott Harrison said that this should motivate the society to now start raising funds, as they face other expenses that will be required to get the building up to today’s standards and code.
“The key we have to have a discussion about, what does the lease look like?” said Harrison. “So I think it’s entirely fair to be able to say that because this is just invoicing the cost, we’re not holding it over their heads today. But this is something that as they start fundraising, they’ll have to be responsible for.”