Ladysmith town council discussed the fate of the old food bank building on Buller Street as part its 2022 early budget approvals. Town staff brought a recommendation with early capital project approvals to council’s special meeting on Nov. 30, which included allocating $45,000 to demolish the structure.
Coun. Rob Johnson opened the discussion with a request to delay approving demolition and having a structural report done to see if there is potential to renovate the building.
“We do not know the structural integrity of the building. To know this we need a report from a structural engineer to establish the building is unsafe or in danger of falling down,” he said. “If the building is found not to be sound, we will still be able to demolish it as it will still be in the budget.”
He suggested council could consider using it as a visitor information centre or community meeting space if it is deemed repairable — an idea other councillors did not entertain.
“Providing community use to a building entrenches those user groups and creates a sense of entitlement and creates further difficulties down the road when you are trying to explain to them that it’s time for that building to move on,” said Mayor Aaron Stone.
He spoke in favour of tearing the old food bank down and said it is on the capital plan because of challenges it has presented in recent years.
“I believe we had heard from a user group nearby that some people were congregating around the building and caused concern for security at neighbouring properties,” he said.
Coun. Marsh Stevens said he suspects cost to remediate hazardous material would hinder any effort to renovate the building. “Asbestos is like Franks Hot Sauce, it’s in everything. A building like that, I think that would be its Achilles Heel,” he said.
The town approved $35,000 in its early budget process for asbestos surveys in town buildings built prior to 1992, which includes this one.
Coun. Tricia McKay said she would be reluctant for the town to put money into the building for renovation. “I find it has no redeeming qualities whatsoever,” she said.
Council carried the staff recommendation for the early budget approval without amendments to the food bank demolition project.