Yarmouth town council sees a looming crisis for municipalities as more and more schools close across the province.
The old Yarmouth high school on Parade Street. One of what will eventually be many empty schools in Yarmouth. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
The town has already seen the closure and demolition of the Milton Elementary School. The old high school stands empty. So too does Yarmouth Junior High School (formerly the vocational school)
The Tri-County Regional School Board has indicated its intention to close both Central Elementary School and South Centennial School.
That’s a lot of real estate that could eventually be declared surplus property and some of these buildings could end up in the town’s lap. Yarmouth Junior High, it turns out, is actually a provincial property, due to the fact that it was originally built as a vocational school. There was a period last year when the school board was trying to hand it back to the town. Until it was discovered that the province actually owns that building, there was much wringing of hands around the council table. It costs a lot of month to provide even the most basic maintenance on these large buildings. Many consider that the town dodged the bullet on the junior high school, but many of the schools across the province will devolve to the municipal units in which they were built.
In recognition that other municipalities are facing similar prospects, council has sponsored a resolution to be debated at the fall conference of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities.
The resolution calls upon the UNSM and the province of Nova Scotia to “create a process wherein any surplus building within a rural or urban municipality, owned by said Province be turned over to the respective municipal unit with sufficient funding to cover the eventual demolition of said building in the event that no secondary use of such building can be found.”
Some municipalities are making money on their surplus properties. In Argyle, municipal council has dealt with the issue of surplus schools by sending them out to tender. All three schools that have recently been vacated -- in Ste. Anne du Ruisseau, Amiraults Hill and Argyle – have been purchased by private interests. The school in SAR is used for agricultural processing. Amirault’s Hill is a long-term rental facility. The Argyle school remains vacant.