Westport School, amber lights for school zones, tax exempt status for house used as church
WHAT TO DO WITH WESTPORT SCHOOL?
Councillor David Tudor would like to see a community meeting to discuss the future of the old Westport Village School.
“If council approves the idea, I’d like to get all the groups and people together who might conceivably be interested in this space and have a good old fashioned brainstorming session,” says Tudor about the empty schoolhouse.
The Tri-County Regional School Board closed the school at the end of the school year in June because of declining enrolment: in fact only one student would have attended the school this year.
The school board has officially turned the building over to the municipality—councilors are now trying to figure out what should happen with the building.
Alfred Doucet, the municipal building inspector, inspected the school on Friday, Sept. 28.
He found the exterior would need scraping and painting, and some windowsills and casings would require “some repair work”.
His report says the shingles are “still good for a few years yet.”
The interior he says is in “great condition”, the furnace has been well taken care of and one appears quite new-“both burners are modern up-to-date units and look clean.”
The windows are not new and energy efficient but do have storm windows on them.
The oil tank dates from 2003; the life of a tank Doucet estimates at 10 to 13 years, depending on the tank location and the insurance policy.
The agenda for the municipality’s council meeting Monday, Nov. 26 included consideration of a policy for “disposal of surplus schools”.
Under that policy, one of the first steps would be to offer the school to the incorporated village where it is located, in this case Westport.
Tudor believes there needs to be a local solution.
“Of course everyone would love to keep the building but we need a plan,” says Tudor. “And it needs to be sustainable. I need a business plan, I need to know how we are going to pay the monthly bills.”
Council was to have considered that surplus school policy at the meeting this past Monday, and to have considered Tudor’s plan for a public meeting.
AMBER LIGHTS FOR SCHOOL ZONES
Warden Linda Gregory brought up the difficulty people are having getting used to the new speed limits in school zones.
The province changed legislation starting this past September setting out two speed limits in school zones that are surrounded by a 50 kmh speed limit.
The speed limit is 50kmh when no children are present; if children are present the speed limit drops to 30 kmh.
The warden says it is too confusing for drivers to know which speed limit to obey.
She sugggested the province should install flashing amber lights on its school zones signs to let drivers know when children are present.
“Then they’d know,” said the warden at the committee of the whole meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 13. “There’d be no confusion.”
CAO Linda Fraser asked for clarification about the proposal:
“How would it work,” she asked. “Who would turn the lights on and off?”
Deputy warden Jimmy MacAlpine agreed that more education and clearer signage could help, but he took an opposite tack to the warden’s.
He said he liked the signs that show drivers how fast they are going as they approach a school zone.
“Barton School would be a great place for that,” says MacAlpine. “People are driving through there too fast and maybe showing them how fast they are going might help them remember to obey the speed limit.”
In areas like Barton where the surrounding speed limit is 80, the limit around the school is 50 kmh when children are present.
In the end council agreed to send a letter to the province suggesting they look at making the signage clearer possibly by adding lights to indicate the presence of children.
TAX EXEMPTION REQUEST FOR HOUSE USED AS CHURCH
Elvis and Nora Amero sent a letter asking for an exemption from paying property taxes.
The couple says they “have nearly surrendered all of our property for the location of church business.”
The Weymouth United Pentecostal Church holds two services there on Sunday, another on Tuesday and a prayer service on Wednesdays, plus other special services, they say.
“We have been holding services here for eight years now, and have gradually given up our four bedroom home to a single bedroom dwelling.”
CAO of the municipality told council the Municipal Government Act allows the municipality to give tax exemptions for property owned by non-profit community organizations or charity organizations, even religious organizations but not for property owned by individuals.
Council directed staff to send a letter explaining why they can’t approve the request.