Protesters block Avola schoolhouse repairs

Avola residents blocked access to the Avola log schoolhouse June 25, preventing repairs to the 70-year-old building.

Four Avola residents keep a truck carrying scaffolding needed to repair the Avola log schoolhouse from entering the schoolhouse grounds on Tuesday. The protesters feared the walnut shell blasting the contractor proposed to do would damage the 70-year-old building. Pictured are (l-r) Tammy Wilson

Four Avola residents keep a truck carrying scaffolding needed to repair the Avola log schoolhouse from entering the schoolhouse grounds on Tuesday. The protesters feared the walnut shell blasting the contractor proposed to do would damage the 70-year-old building. Pictured are (l-r) Tammy Wilson

A small group of Avola residents blocked the access to the Avola log schoolhouse Tuesday afternoon, June 25, preventing a contractor from beginning repairs to the 70-year-old building.

Reason for the demonstration appeared to be the protesters feared the walnut shell blasting the contractor planned to do would damage the building.

“Research the Avola group has done has convinced them that this pressure treatment will irreparably damage the wood, erase the hand-hewn broad axe strokes and strip off the layer of natural color, which is the Avola old log schoolhouse’s character-defining element,” said Eleanor Deckert, one of the organizers.

According to Deckert, Willow MacDonald, Thompson-Nicola Regional District director for Thompson Headwaters (Area B) arrived at the schoolhouse about 45 minutes after the blockade began.

The Avola protesters told her that they were unhappy with a decision made by the Thompson Headwaters services committee during a June 18 meeting to have the contractor go ahead with the renovation project.

The June 18 meeting was held immediately after an open house held to discuss the proposed renovations with the community. During the open house the consensus of those present seemed to be that the choice of stain color to be used should be left to the discretion of the contractor, Brad Dohms of Vavenby.

“The group expressed that there was not enough time, too much confusion, misinformation and misunderstanding to have made it a legitimate vote,” Deckert said.

During the June 18 meeting it was stated that the contractor had previously used walnut shell blasting when he renovated the Upper Clearwater and Blackpool community halls for the TNRD.

The objective of the treatment would be to remove only the gray, oxidized wood, the meeting was told. It would renew the wood, not make it look new.

Other than that, the question of what method and material to be used to clean the building’s exterior did not seem to be an issue at the time.

Following Tuesday’s blockade, Deckert reported on Wednesday that she, Bob Jensen and Tammy Wilson had been invited to a meeting early this week with Ron Storie, TNRD manager of community services, and Sukh Gill: chief administrative officer of TNRD.

The meeting would take place in the District of Clearwater offices on Tuesday afternoon, July 2, Storie said last week.

“The important thing to stress is that the regional district is willing to listen but we have to do what the majority of the residents want,” he said.

The manager of community services confirmed that the schoolhouse is TNRD property.

The regional distict would not support getting heritage status for the building at this time, he said.

Because of the concerns raised about walnut shell blasting, the TNRD is doing additional research into the process.