Tay opts against pursuing Waubaushene school property

·4 min read

A multitude of unknowns and high renovation costs deterred Tay Township from expressing interest in a Simcoe County District School Board surplus property within the municipality.

The Pine Street School in Waubaushene had recently come up for sale and the township, among others, had been given a chance to do a walk-through to assess the building to determine interest in purchasing it.

Coun. Barry Norris, who had been part of the adhoc team that took the tour, recently presented his thoughts to council.

In his detailed report, he outlined the various features of the school, and based on what he had learned from the township's chief building officer, put together some costs for renovations.

"What we do know is there will be extensive renovations to make it a viable building for the municipality," said Norris. "With the square footage of the building at approx. 6,800 sq. ft., the cost which could be incurred could vary as high as $884,000 - $1,292,000. It could be even higher.

"You'll be looking at $150,000 increase in service level, so that's an increase in the tax levy," he added. "Long and short of it is that we do not go ahead with the letter of intent."

Coun. Paul Raymond was on board with the suggestion.

"The cost is just too great and there are too many unknowns," he said. "There are some other opportunities we could explore."

Coun. Jefff Bumstead was on the same page.

"I don't support the purchasing of the school because there's no concrete plan for what the need is," he said. "If that recreation plan came first before the 2022 replacement of the (Bennys' Club) portable, maybe we will have a better idea of what sort of recreation is needed there."

Coun. Mary Warnock wasn't convinced about the lack of need.

"I'm struggling with this because I kind of thought the needs had come forward in different ways through our strategic plan, our age-friendly plan, and rec strategic plan," she said. "I think the need was showing to provide a room for that community. I certainly do agree going forward we need to achieve this going forward."

Earlier during the same meeting, the Waubaushene Action Group (WAG) had made a presentation highlighting the need for a community hub or centre in their hamlet, for which they felt the Pine Street School could be a good property.

"We see an increasingly large contingent of tourists that are using the Tay Trail and our beach space has received some improvements," said Jo Jorgensen, co-chair of WAG. "We’re the only community in Tay that’s located close to Highway 400 and connection to Highway 12. We’ve also seen a boom in housing in Waubaushene. We see a lot of opportunities for more tourism.

"We’re here to encourage you to continue to invest in our future," she said. "We’re in a perfect position in Tay to provide a vibrant space to the visitors as well as provide essential emergency services."

Deputy Mayor Gerard LaChapelle wanted the group to show council the money.

"I haven’t heard or seen anything called a business plan from your group," he said. "The Victoria Harbour community self-raised $700,000 to help offset the funding. I haven’t heard that from your community."

Jorgensen said the group would welcome the opportunity to help find and write grant applications to raise funds.

"This would, at the end of the day, be a municipal building that would require municipal recreation funding," she added.

Warnock said maybe there was a chance for some teamwork here.

"I don’t think there’s a person on this council that doesn’t realize that we need some kind of community meeting room in Waubaushene," she said. "I’d like to see us work as a team and involve the community in fundraising and looking for grants. We have to be realistic and look at how we’re going to get there."

Mayor Ted Walker took it a step further and invited the group to represent its neighbourhood on the adhoc committee that examined the school.

But Raymond was cautious about that.

"I'm going to be honest, until such time as the township has made an acquisition, I don't think residents should be involved," he said. "There are a lot of considerations to be put into this process. I would welcome input once the acquisition has been made."

Council decided that the adhoc group should continue to look at other options for addressing the Waubaushene community room need and community groups be invited to participate once an acquisition has been made.

Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com