Leaky roof puts Harbour Grace youth centre on the brink of closing

·3 min read
Maggie Snow is the executive director of the Splash Centre, which moved into the former Harbour Grace Primary School in 2014.  (CBC - image credit)
Maggie Snow is the executive director of the Splash Centre, which moved into the former Harbour Grace Primary School in 2014. (CBC - image credit)
Maggie Snow is the executive director of the Splash Centre, which moved into the former Harbour Grace Primary School in 2014.
Maggie Snow is the executive director of the Splash Centre, which moved into the former Harbour Grace Primary School in 2014. (CBC)

The Splash Centre in Harbour Grace, which provides hundreds of young people with everything from meals to prom dresses, recreation and mental health support is in desperate need of help to keep its programming going.

Since 2014, the centre — a part of the province's community youth network — has called the former Harbour Grace Primary School home.

But the building's roof has been leaking.

Executive director Maggie Snow says the leaks were contained to the gym when they first moved in, but they've since spread, causing damage throughout the building.

"Sometimes we say that our programming is weather-dependent, which is ridiculous when we're talking about an inside facility," Snow said.

Maggie Snow worries that the spring thaw and temperature changes will be detrimental to the building. She says the leaks are progressing rapidly.
Maggie Snow worries that the spring thaw and temperature changes will be detrimental to the building. She says the leaks are progressing rapidly.(Submitted by Maggie Snow)

"But on rainy days, or depending on which way the wind blows … sometimes we have to close down the gym for programming," she said.

Snow said staff move activities around the building for safety, to prevent falls on the slick floors. Containing the water, she says, is a full time job in itself.

"We really want to maintain the level of programs and services we have, and in order to do that we really do need to save our facility," Snow said during an interview Sunday.

'Cannot continue this arrangement'

Snow said her team got a quote to fix the roof last spring. Contractors estimated a hefty $300,000 repair job.

But the Splash Centre doesn't own the building that it and other community groups call home — the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District does.

WATCH | Heather Gillis finds out why operators of the Splash Centre are lobbying for repairs to the building where it operates:

In a statement, the district said it has not required the building for a number of years and "cannot prioritize repairs on a building not required for K-12 education." The board also says it doesn't receive rent — nor contributions for utilities, maintenance and municipal fees — from groups occupying the building.

"We cannot continue this arrangement any longer, given the building is surplus to our needs," reads the statement.

The district has offered the building to the Town of Harbour Grace.

Another leak in the roof at the Splash Centre.
Another leak in the roof at the Splash Centre.(Submitted by Maggie Snow)

Mayor Don Coombs hopes the building will be a regional purchase. He has been talking with the joint councils of Conception Bay North — which includes communities from Brigus to Victoria — about taking on the property as an "open facility," he said, for young people in nearby communities.

Coombs says talks with the joint councils started last week. He says they need to consider purchase price along with operating costs of the building, which Coombs estimates will reach about $60,000 annually.

'Best-kept secret' in region

Coombs said he is so far sensing an appetite to save the building.

"We need everybody involved because it serves the region," said Coombs.

The Splash Centre is home to a number of community organizations and programs for youth 12 to 18.
The Splash Centre is home to a number of community organizations and programs for youth 12 to 18.(Ted Dillon/CBC)

Cupids town councillor Rod Delaney, who is on the executive of the region's joint council, agrees with Coombs about the centre's scope.

"Their services are so far-reaching that it was overwhelming to me to find out exactly all the programming that they provide in the area — the best-kept secret in Conception Bay North, in my mind," he said.

He believes interested parties have a short window to get the repairs done, and produce a sustainable, longer-term plan for the centre.

Meanwhile, Snow said she understands the school district's position, and is lobbying the provincial and federal governments for help.

The school district said if the town accepts transfer of ownership, it could open doors for provincial grants.

While the towns discuss the offer, the school district says if the group of councils decline, it will list the building for sale.

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