The future of Princeton’s community centre, Riverside, is being seen as at risk following a decision by the Nicola-Similkameen School District.
On Wednesday (March 3) the school board informed the municipality it is applying for permission from the province to possibly dispose of the building and its grounds, and has entered a period of public consultation on the matter.
Should the district eventually decide to sell Riverside “we will do our very best to try to secure it,” said Mayor Spencer Coyne.
“I’d be lying to say I wasn’t concerned. It’s the cultural centre of our community. Honestly my biggest concern is the possibility of not being able to secure it for the community. The potential loss of the programs and services that are offered through Riverside are deeply concerning.”
School District 58 chairperson Gordon Swan said he does not want Princeton residents to jump to conclusions.
“For the last year we’ve been identifying properties that are surplus to our education needs, potentially, and as part of that process we are looking at property that we may or may not sell,” Swan told the Spotlight in an interview Thursday, March 4.
The district owns Riverside on Old Hedley Road, which at one time was an intermediate school, and it’s been leased to the town since 2015.
In 2020 there was no settlement on a long-term lease renewal and the agreement is now month-to-month.
The municipality pays the school district $1,000 per month, along with all operating costs. The school district takes responsibility for major capital repairs.
Presently Riverside houses a theatre space, which was extended from the gymnasium with the help of provincial funding. There is a community commercial kitchen — paid for by the local Rotary Club — and offices for the town’s recreation manager, a regional district building inspector, the Princeton Arts Council and Emergency Social Services.
Residents also use an indoor and outdoor pickleball court.
The town rents part of the Riverside space to a private daycare. The school district continues to use two classrooms in the building for alternative learning for high school students — a program called The Bridge.
Swan said regardless of the outcome for the property, The Bridge will continue.
Swan stressed the assessment of Riverside, along with several other properties owned by the district, is part of the school board’s due diligence.
Seven properties owned by the district are being examined.
“They’ve all been identified as surplus to our needs but it doesn’t mean the properties are going to be sold,” he said, adding Riverside has yet to be appraised to determine its commercial value.
The former district school board office on Vermilion Avenue is also on the list, along with five Merritt buildings/lots.
Swan said trustees and staff want to hear from residents throughout the consultation process.
Input in writing is welcomed before April 9 at 4 p.m. and can be made by email, email@example.com, or in writing to PO Box 1400 Merritt, BC, V1K 1BB.
A public meeting will be held via Zoom video conference Monday, April 12, at 4:30 p.m. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.