Kaslo council opened last week with a request to support a last-minute application for funding to renovate the Kemball Memorial Centre.
Randy Morse, the communications director for the BC Rural Centre, asked council for a letter of support for a nearly $1 million grant application that was submitted that same day.
“This is a real opportunity for Kaslo,” Morse told council.
Morse said he had been approached by a loose-knit group of tenants at the Village’s Kemball Memorial Centre, a historic building that proponents are hoping to turn into a local business and tech innovation hub.
The group had learned of a $979,000 grant that was available through the Province’s Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program. The fund was developed to support community economic resilience and urban and rural economic development projects in the post-COVID world.
“This will shore up the sagging infrastructure of the Kemball building,” says Morse.
But the tenants had a problem. They weren’t an official group and couldn’t apply directly for the money. So they approached Morse at the BC Rural Centre to act as the place-holder applicant. But then the BCRC had its own issue – the Village owns the building, and would have to approve of any work being done on its property.
“We took the decision that this is perhaps a one-of-a-kind piece of infrastructure funding, and we didn’t see any sign that anyone else was going to move on it, so we decided to go ahead and submitted a proposal,” he told council.
The proposal is being shepherded through the process by the ad-hoc Kemball renters group and BCRC, and Morse told council if they agree, the Village has nothing to lose by agreeing to it.
The money would be used to upgrade the windows, heating system, deal with potential environmental problems – all issues identified in a consultant’s report on the building done two years ago.
“All the things necessary to bring the building up to code, and as someone half-laughingly put it, ‘finally make it insurable,’” Morse told council. The building would be a far more valuable community asset after the renovation work, he noted.
Morse said the letter of support would be proof for the funders that the building’s owner is on-side with the planned work to be done.
Morse told council that the grant was exactly what was needed to further his organization’s other aim, to make Kaslo the ‘21st-century communications centre’ for rural BC.
“The Kemball building could become the physical centre of that manifestation of one of our greatest assets,” he says.
Morse said he would drop off a copy of the application at the Village hall for staff to review.
John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice