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Vacant Harrow high school could cost $10M to renovate

the former Harrow District High School in shown in this file photo from September, 2018. The school has been closed for more than six years. In 2021, it was purchased by the Town of Essex.  (Jason Viau/CBC - image credit)
the former Harrow District High School in shown in this file photo from September, 2018. The school has been closed for more than six years. In 2021, it was purchased by the Town of Essex. (Jason Viau/CBC - image credit)

A project to fully restore a former high school could cost the Town of Essex about $10 million.

Harrow District High School closed in June 2016, and has been sitting vacant ever since.

The Town of Essex bought the structure last year.  At the time, town councillor Sherry Bondy said she was "doing a happy dance."

Bondy has long advocated for converting the old school building into a community hub for recreation and other services.

She  led her first regular town council meeting as the mayor of Essex Monday night, when the project's cost was presented to council.

"It's a brand new council with a very big report in front of them, and so we have to go through our budget. We have to go through our strategic plan, and together with the community, make this decision," said Bondy.

The town hired Haddad, Morgan & Associates to undertake an assessment of the property. The company estimated the costs, including $2.7 million for architectural upgrades, $3.6 million in mechanical upgrades, $2.1 million  in electrical and $185,000 for structural repairs.

The company estimated it would cost more than $8.6 million to convert the building into a useable high school and $10 million if the town moves forward with a plan to turn the building into a community centre.

PHOTOS | Former Harrow high school, two years after it closed:

"It is a lot of money, and we're very aware that inflation is at an all-time high," said Bondy.

"So if there's a way that we can accomplish some more amenities in the area without burdening the taxpayers, then I think that's something we should look into, but this certainly should not be attacked right now. We have to be very aware of core infrastructure like roads."

The report to council recommends the town spend its remaining funding for the capitol project — about $35,000 of $60,000 — for "continued expenses" of the building, which includes any other assessments of the property.