Dashwood Community Photo The Regional District of Nanaimo plans to demolish the aging Little Qualicum Hall, which the Dashwood community is fighting to preserve.

RDN to demolish Little Qualicum Hall in Dashwood

Residents frustrated with the regional district’s position

The Regional District of Nanaimo wants to tear down the Little Qualicum Hall and incorporate the building site into Dashwood Community Park.

The Electoral Area G Parks and Open Space Advisory Council made the recommendation after weighing all its options. In his report, Mark Dobbs, RDN Superintendent of Operations and Capital Projects, indicated it would be too costly to renovate and upgrade the building.

The members of the Dashwood steering committee formed more than two years ago to look at the feasibility of either replacing, renovating or rebuilding the hall, is “frustrated” with the RDN’s position.

Chair Bill Petten said it was the community that initiated the plan to upgrade the hall. They’ve conducted public surveys to gauge the sentiments of the community. The survey showed 85 per cent of respondents consider the hall important and support it for community events.

“This is very important to the community,” said Petten. “Many of the residents that originally had a hand in building it and looking after it are still here. It is a part of the community and its history.”

The building, which they believe was constructed some time in the early 1930s to the mid-1940s, is located on Centre Road in the Little Qualicum-Dashwood area. It was used and operated by the Little Qualicum Women’s Institute until it was sold to the RDN for $1 in 1994.

At that time, Petten said, an RDN engineer looked at the hall and stated in a report it would cost $10,000 to upgrade the building.

“They never did,” said Petten. “They’ve done nothing to the building itself ever since.”

The community, Petten said, did its best to maintain the hall, which they feel the RDN should consider as a heritage building. They have painted it and also worked on the roof. The Dashwood steering committee researched the costs and options that could be taken to renovate the building.

“The RDN is saying it is going to cost $450,000 to upgrade the hall but we’ve had several contractors that looked at the building and they think it should not cost that much,” said Petten.

Petten said they’ve also looked into replacing the hall with a steel building. The estimated total cost is around $200,000 which would provide a larger hall guaranteed for 35 years. But at the last POSAC meeting, Dobbs indicated by the time the costs of finishing are included, as well as other costs that such as planning, septic improvements and others, the value would still be much higher, close to $400,000. The RDN, Petten said, is not willing to pay that amount.

Area G director Joe Stanhope noted it could cost taxpayers as much as $100 per home to fund the project and added he would not support it.

“The Little Qualicum Hall is past its prime,” said Stanhope. “It’s got asbestos, it’s not wheelchair accessible. It’s going to cost a lot of money to upgrade it. We’re going to look at other options.”

Petten said the community has volunteered to do most of the work but the RDN is not allowing them to touch the building.

“We have contractors that are willing to donate their time to do the upgrades and stuff like that,” said Petten. “(The RDN) said it’s a liability and a union thing. I don’t know what’s involved in it. The people that cut the grass and clean up after each function, they’re not allowed to do it anymore. They’re not allowed to trim trees or cut the bushes around it.”

Petten said the RDN has done a poor job of maintaining the park.

Petten said he doesn’t know when the building will be demolished, but said the community is going to make one last pitch to convince the RDN to delay it.

“We want an opportunity to somehow raise funds to either have the work done or replace the building and also to check out other options,” said Petten.