Not all in favor of Dutch Lake School purchase

Clearwater councilor Bert Walker isn’t happy with the procedure being used to move the District of Clearwater offices from their present building on the Flats to proposed new premises in Dutch Lake School.

Clearwater councilor Bert Walker isn’t happy with the procedure being used to move the District of Clearwater offices from their present building on the Flats to proposed new premises in Dutch Lake School.

According to comments Walker made during last Tuesday’s town council meeting, it appears that council held several in camera discussions over a period of time about acquiring Dutch Lake School (discussions involving property are not usually done in public).

“Twice I asked if moving the administrative offices was part of the deal. Both times I was told no, we’re just looking at putting some sort of community center in there. Now, all of a sudden I read in the newspaper that moving the offices is part of the deal after all,” Walker said.

The council member acknowledged that the present building has several problems, such as lack of wheelchair access, but questioned whether the present economic climate is a good time to be looking at moving into new premises.

“I don’t think we should go out and build a new Taj Mahal,” he said.

He noted that the tendency for local politicians to want to build monuments to themselves was precisely the sort of criticism that had been brought against incorporation before Clearwater became a municipality.

Walker’s statements came during discussion of a motion to ratify an application made for a $400,000 Towns for Tomorrow grant for the upgrading and renovation of Dutch Lake School for use as a regional community center. The provincial money would be matched by $100,000 from the municipality. Walker appeared to be the only councilor to vote against the motion.

“This is a good chance for us to get some 80 cent-dollars,” commented Ken Kjenstad.

Brent Buck noted that, during the process to develop an official community plan (OCP), several people have said we need a place to showcase local arts and culture. A community center such as that proposed for the school would also help meet desires expressed for more recreation opportunities.

“They didn’t specifically say buy Dutch Lake School but I think this is a great fit,” Buck said.

There was some discussion about whether the community might need the classroom space in Dutch Lake School if Canfor reopens its Vavenby sawmill or if one or both of the two mines being proposed for the area go ahead.

Mayor John Harwood, who is also school trustee for the upper North Thompson, noted that Princeton has acquired 200 new jobs with new mines going in but only has 10 more students in its schools. The trend is for the workers to come first and the families only following once everything is settled, he felt.

It was pointed out that both Dutch Lake and Raft River schools are relatively old and it might be a better long-term investment to build a new elementary school rather than try to reopen one that’s been closed for seven or eight years.

District of Clearwater applied to the board of School District 73 to acquire Dutch Lake School during a school board meeting held Jan. 10. A recommendation from staff is expected for the school board’s Jan. 24 meeting. If the decision is to go ahead, the school district likely would begin public input sessions in February. The municipality likely would hold its own public input process after the school district’s, said Harwood.