SPRUCEDALE – Seniors in the Township of McMurrich/Monteith are afraid that the building that houses their thrift shop may be pulled from under them.
SENIORS AT BATTLE.
Around the beginning of the New Year, the township turned to the Sprucedale Seniors’ Friendship Club and offered to sell them the building that they currently lease for $1. However, the group turned them down.
The municipality has since sent out a notice to area residents asking for input into what should be done with the building if the seniors don’t want to purchase it.
The seniors’ group runs its thrift shop every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. out of the old red schoolhouse on Highway 518. They have held the lease on the building since 1979, when the lease was originally drawn, shortly after it closed as a school.
The schoolhouse was originally built in 1914, and burned in 1940. The building that was rebuilt in the early ‘40s is the one that stands at the location today.
Reeve Glynn Robinson says if the group does not purchase the building, the onus stays on the municipality, and in turn the taxpayers, including $4,000 in insurance.
Seniors member Lynda Howse says they went to their insurance company and were told it would cost them a little more than $2,000, insuring it for a value of about $575,000. She says the town has the building insured at such a low rate that her insurance agency told her it would not even be enough to remove the debris if the building burned to the ground.
“We probably pay a premium because we’re a municipality,” said Robinson.
He says currently the building is not costing the municipality any additional money, however if they intend to keep it, eventually there will be costs associated.
Robinson says they are hoping to take the liability away from the taxpayers.
“The municipality itself doesn’t have the money to refurbish that thing and the senior’s don’t either right now,” he said. “They are eligible for grants and can probably get grants more easily than the municipality because we have other stuff we have to work towards.”
He says it would be great if they could invest the money into the building but the money is not there.
“The council doesn’t want to take anything from the seniors. They just want the seniors to assume their own responsibility for it,” he said.
Robinson the building is the seniors to look after, including all renovations and exterior work, although the township has replaced the water filtration system and about a decade ago replaced the roof.
“The township probably just did that. Not that they had to. It may have been some of the maintenance that the senior’s should have done but the Township went ahead and did it,” he said.
Howse says they do work on the building, however says the work would not include external renovations, what she refers to as landlord responsibilities, although they have received quotes to replace windows.
A letter addressed by clerk/treasurer Cheryl Marshall dated Oct. 16, 2009, that accompanied a copy of the 1979 agreement, states that the maintenance of the building is the responsibility of the seniors’ club
However, it was another letter, dated March 12 of this year, that sent up red flags for the club members.
“To have use of the dug well located beside the previous rink surface until the Club can install a water well of their own,” the letter states.
Howse says that could be a cost of up to $15,000 that the club cannot afford.
Robinson says if they severed the lot and sold it, the well would not be on it, however says he told the seniors they could use it, stating that it is not an issue.
“They may down the road have to drill a well because it is just a dug well,” he said.
He says it is a non-issue until the seniors’ decide to change the use of the building to require a drilled well.
The offer to buy included a condition that if the senior’s no longer had a need for the building they would sell it back to the Township for a dollar, although Howse questions why they would invest in a building that they are only going to get a dollar for.
“We were willing to go for grants. We already have proposals to put brand new windows in that building,” she said.
Robinson says he is certain they could negotiate further to make investments into the building.
“The Township has no issues with anything they do and don’t want to take advantage of them,” he said. “They only thing we’re concerned about is if somebody was to say ‘let’s sell it’ and reap this big profit.”
The group makes donations to the McMurrich/Monteith Fire Department, The Burk’s Falls and District Food Bank, two local churches, Huntsville Hospital, and provided Christmas for two families last Christmas including meals, clothes and presents for the children.”
“Without the thrift shop we will end up folding. We do not make enough at euchre and bingo,” she said.
The municipality has sent a letter out to the people of the Township asking for suggestions on the future of the building. The group has responded with a suggestion of their own, allowing the Sprucedale Seniors’ Friendship Club to continue with the lease as is to accommodate the thrift shop.