Kamloops council has rejected a request from a day-care society to set up operations in the empty Stuart Wood School building downtown.
But Mayor Ken Christian said the request will be revisited once the city has had more talks with the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation on the future use of the downtown property.
In a closed meeting, council voted 4-3 to deny a bid by the Children’s Circle Daycare Society to lease a portion of the former school for one year at an annual rate of $24,000.
Council voted 4-3 to deny the day-care society’s request, with councillors Arjun Singh, Denis Walsh and Dale Bass in favour of granting the lease and Christian and councillors Kathy Sinclair, Bill Sarai and Dieter Dudy opposed.
Coun. Mike O’Reilly did not vote due to a conflict of interest (his child attends the day care), while Coun. Sadie Hunter was on vacation.
Following the day-care request vote, council voted unanimously to deny any further requests to lease Stuart Wood until an agreement with Tk’emlups te Secwépemc on the property is reached.
The in-camera vote took place on Jan. 21 and followed a meeting on Dec. 16 between the day-care society and city staff.
Christian told KTW the issue will be re-examined after the city speaks with Tk’emlups representatives on the future use of the Stuart Wood property.
Since Stuart Wood elementary closed, the city, the provincial government and Tk’emlups te Secwepemc have been in discussions regarding the future use of the heritage building and property, with a joint-use cultural centre planned.
Ownership of the property that borders Third Avenue and Battle and St. Paul streets reverted to the Crown once the school closed and the site was no longer used for educational purposes. Because the land is Crown-owned, Tk’emlups must be consulted with respect to its future use.
City of Kamloops CAO David Trawin said a letter from Tk’emlups indicated the band was not necessarily opposed to the day care using Stuart Wood for a year, but that the future, permanent use of the property needs to be decided upon.
Last fall, the city sent an an application to the province, seeking approval to use the building for reasons other than education.
Because approval from Tk’emlups is needed, the province forwarded the proposal to the First Nation for comments. In October, Tk’emlups CAO Dessa Gottfriedson told KTW the band assembled an internal working group, which met and has sought legal advice.
The Children’s Circle Daycare Society needs to leave its space next to Royal Inland Hospital by June 1 due to ongoing construction of the hospital’s $417-million patient-care tower. While the society has secured a new home in the Sagebrush (South Kamloops) neighbourhood, that space will not be ready until June of 2021.
Stuart Wood was identified by the day-care society as a possible short-term location due to the building’s existing classrooms, kitchen, bathrooms and office space The annual lease payment of $24,000 would have equated to $6 per square foot, with all costs for snow clearing, leasehold improvements and custodial services the responsibility of Children’s Circle.
Wenda Noona, transition manager for the Children’s Circle Daycare Society, said she hopes the day care will ultimately find a home in Stuart Wood, but noted the society has other options.
“Stuart Wood is a perfect fit and it is mutually beneficial,” she told KTW, noting everything needed is there, with only a commercial dishwasher required.
Noonan said the society has identified another location if it is needed and pointed out the lease for the space adjacent to the hospital could be extended, depending on construction timelines at the patient-care tower.
However, Noonan added, finding another commercial space will likely be more costly due to stringent licensing rules that mandate, for example, a certain amount of space per child and a certain number of wahsrooms per child.
“We’re kind of hoping someone might say, ‘Hey, I know the perfect place for you,’” Noonan said, noting the day care needs about 3,000 square feet of space and kitchen and laundry facilities.
Anybody with information on possible spaces can call the society at 250-314-5033.
The Kamloops-Thompson school district closed Stuart Wood elementary in June of 2016, with those students being relocated to Beattie elementary in Sahali. Beattie had been the elementary campus of the Kamloops School of the Arts and those students are now with their secondary peers at the kindergarten to Grade 12 arts school adjacent to South Kamloops secondary.