Vision for St. Andrews Lodge uncertain as society takes over utility bills

Photo shows the building before the St. Andrews Lodge Society intervened to prevent its demolition last year. || File photo
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The newly formed St. Andrews Lodge Historical and Cultural Society will take over utility bills for the building this month, but does not yet have a key to the lodge. 

Town council voted at its Jan. 13 meeting to begin invoicing the society for utilities and to provide them a key as soon as a lease is signed. Coun. Westbroek moved to provide a key immediately, and Mayor Brian Wiese seconded, but town staff said the lease must be signed first, since it is a town-owned property.

“We said in the motion that once they form a society, they will be responsible for the bills and I don’t think you can charge a tenant for utility bills unless they have access to the building,” Westbroek said.

The society launched a GoFundMe page and raised $5,000, according to Anne, Skipsey, president of the society. She said the society is figuring out ways to raise more funds.

“We aren’t at this point able to offer people a tax receipt and so we are hoping either we can partner with somebody who can do that or, now that we have our society formed, we can apply for that charitable status,” she said.

Skipsey said the society has a board of 11 directors, which has been meeting regularly since Nov. 30.

She said the society is now a member of Heritage B.C. and the board is looking to heritage buildings in other towns for ideas on how to use the space.

The board has been discussing what the building will ultimately be used for. “How the building is used will depend on what type of restoration or remodelling needs to be done,” Skipsey said.

Coun. Scott Harrison expressed concern about the society’s funds at the council meeting. He said the original decision to begin invoicing the society for utilities this month was a compromise made by council, which functioned to satisfy opposing views and act as a “capacity building exercise for the society.”

“The electrical bills are not going to be a significant sum of money and it was sort of the intent that this gives them a chance to start fundraising and saying we do need money now,” he said. 

St. Andrews Lodge was set for demolition last year, but town council changed its decision after pushback from demonstrators. 

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