Safety concerns force RDN to close Little Qualicum Hall

Community group seeks option to make heritage building safe for public use

Little Qualicum Hall, located in Dashwood Community Park, has been closed to the public due to major safety issues.

Residents and groups in Electoral Area G that regularly use the building have not been allowed to access the building since the end of January. The Municipal Insurance Association of BC informed the Regional District of Nanaimo the risk is too high to have it open to the public and recommended the hall be closed to the public immediately.

The RDN last June wanted to demolish the heritage building, stating it would be too costly to renovate and upgrade the structure. That plan was postponed after the community protested against it.

A review of what possible repairs can be done to the hall was undertaken by Herold Engineering. As well, consultations with the community and stakeholders were conducted in January and February this year.

Herold Engineering analyzed the integrity of the structure and presented three options to the Electoral Area G Parks and Open Space Committee for consideration. The first option is to build a new hall, the second is to make the building safe and accessible, and the third to completely renovate the building.

Herold Engineering reported it will be too expensive to construct a similar-sized building as there will be other variables to consider such as professional design, permitting, contingency and other related soft costs.

The engineering firm also indicated a complete renovation, in its estimate, would cost between $250,000 and $300,000. Costs could run even higher, as the extent of the deterioration has not been totally quantified yet. As well, the choice of interior finishes, cladding, windows, roofing and the timing of the renovation and market conditions can all affect the price tag.

At its February meeting, the Dashwood Community Group informed RDN staff it prefers the second option, which would focus on making the building safer. It would include addressing the deteriorating floor in the bathroom, a new septic field, creating a code-compliant second exit, adding new plumbing and making it wheelchair accessible.

Electoral Area G Director Joe Stanhope indicated that funding of $75,000 to $80,000 could be acquired from the RDN’s Community Works fund. He would make a recommendation to the RDN board to approve funds to be allocated to the Little Qualicum Hall repairs.

RDN staff is currently working on the costs and will have a breakdown once completed. Also being considered is the creation of a Local Service Area (Dashwood community) for future operations and maintenance of the hall. Stanhope pointed out that $100,000 in funds would translate to around $400 per property in taxes.

The RDN is currently conducting a survey by mail and also online. Results will be reviewed at the next POSAC meeting this June.

The Little Qualicum Hall was built in 1944 and given to the Women’s Institute in the 1960s. It has become a popular venue for events and meetings in the community. It also serves as the local community emergency centre.

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