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 Posted in    |  on June 9th, 2017  |  by

Old community hall to be torn down

Not long the after almost-completed new multi-use centre officially opens its doors — indeed, depending on the new centre’s exact opening date, it may be a matter of weeks — wrecking balls will be smashing into the current Invermere Community Hall.

The current hall — formally known as the Lake Windermere Memorial Hall — was built decades ago as a memorial to those who lost their lives fighting overseas for Canada, but owing to substantial structural issues will be torn down as early as this September.

The district is already seeking public feedback on what it should do with the land the hall currently sits on, having set up an online survey and mailed out notifications about an open house on the matter to be held on Thursday, June 15th and focus groups to be held staring on Wednesday, June 14th.

“We’re looking for input from the public for short, medium and long term uses for the site,” Invermere mayor Gerry Taft told the Pioneer. “Unfortunately quite a lot of money is tied up in the building of, and paying off the debt for, the new centre, so the chances of the district being able to build a huge public asset on that land (the site of the current hall) are pretty slim. That’s why we’re looking for feedback about not only about the ideal long term solution, but also about more realistic options for the next 10 to 15 years.”

Mr. Taft said some of the short and medium term ideas currently floating around include keeping the space for parking, or making an RV park.

“There’s no set timeline yet, but we want to start consultation now, because we don’t want the land sitting vacant any longer than it needs to. We want to be clear that this is a discussion about what we are going to do with the land, not about saving or not saving the building. There’s no question it’s coming down. One of the main motivations for building a new centre was that there are major, major structural issues with the old one,” he said. “We have (in the old hall) a roofs that’s failing, a flooring system that’s failing and a really old boiler.”

Mr. Taft said that although costs associated with making the upgrades necessary to fix all the problems in the old hall have never been formally costed, the bill would likely total millions.

“There’s no way we can afford that, or since we now have a new centre, to justify spending that money even if we could afford it,” he said.

For a few months now, Invermere has been aiming to hold the David Thompson Secondary School (DTSS) graduation ceremony at the end of June in the new centre, before officially opening the hall later on in the summer or early fall, a timeline Invermere chief administrative officer Chris Prosser confirmed is still in the cards.

“We’re allowing grad to use it (the new centre) and then we’ll close it again until the grand opening, which is hopefully in mid to late August or early September,” said Mr. Prosser.

The district plans to have a ceremony to officially remove the plaque at the old hall honouring those who lost their lives overseas, as well as another re-dedication ceremony when the plaque is then installed at the new centre.

The open house on Thursday, June 15th will be held at the old community hall from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The online survey about what should be done with the site can be found at www.surveymonkey.com/r/CLWVCMB.

Steve Hubrecht
Email: steve@columbiavalleypioneer.com
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Reporter Steve Hubrecht arrived in the Columbia Valley after working for newspapers in Fernie, B.C., and Beijing, China. He spends as much time outside as possible – if he's not at the Pioneer and Echo office, he's probably out telemarking or hiking. He grew up in southern Ontario and graduated with an MA in Journalism from the University of Western Ontario in 2006.

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