County puts hold on transfer of former school

Lennox and Addington County council approved an effort to purchase the Yarker Family School from the Limestone District School Board for $148,500 last Wednesday as a location to develop a commuinty hub, but it delayed a planned transfer of the property to Stone Mills Township pending strategic planning. Photo by Adam Bramburger.

Adam Bramburger
Beaver Staff

Lennox and Addington County will complete the acquisition of the Yarker Family School, but it may not hand it over to Stone Mills Township as originally envisioned.

Last Wednesday, County councillors approved purchase of the building from the Limestone District School Board for a price of $148,500 that would draw funds from a children’s services fund to pay for the acquisition to support a community hub.

According to a report by the Pam Kent, the manager of children’s service for the County, Stone Mills would be able to collect rent from daycare operations in that hub and repay the County to restock its reserves over time, eventually owning the building. That fulfills the township’s obligation to provide a facility for Yarker’s library branch.

Recently, however, senior Lennox and Addington staff members met to discuss details of their transfer agreement and decided it would be prudent to wait on transferring the property to Stone Mills until County council has completed its March 21 strategic planning session.

The County’s chief administrative officer, Brenda Orchard, told the Beaver the decision was made in light of a library services review completed in 2016 in conjunction with consulting firm St. Clements Group Inc. The report recommend the County build, own, and operate its libraries and work toward operating two-to-three “future libraries,” approximately 42,000 square feet in size with the ability to accommodate collaborative meeting spaces, collection spaces, configurable programming space, and areas for refreshments and “hanging out.” It has been speculated that Napanee and Amherstview could host such facilities, with a possibility of a third location.  Expanded hours, including the possibility of 24/7 operations, could be contemplated.

Orchard said with a new council, there’s a chance to discuss how quickly the library system might move toward that type of model, potentially moving away additional lower-tier owned facilities in Tamworth, Bath, and Yarker after already deciding to close branches in Odessa, South Fredericksburgh, and Camden East.

“The whole concept of actually owning the building would be different. Right now, the lower-tier (municipalities) supply the building and we supply the books and staff,” Orchard said. “If we look at changing that, it doesn’t make sense to immediately flip the building back over to Stone Mills only to take it back again. There’s no rush.”

The purchase price represents 50 per cent of the market value of the school, which honours a previous agreement between Stone Mills Township and the school board, recognizing investments the township made in upgrading the building to host a library branch there.

In her report to council, Kent said the building may need some retrofitting in order to accommodate daycare and early years programming. She indicated staff would bring a detailed report back to council outlining recommended programming options and facility requirements.

The County met its March 10 deadline to submit a bid to the school board to purchase the property. The sale agreement will need to be ratified by the board’s trustees to become official.

n In other news, County staff have reviewed the applications for the vacant post for the director of Prince Edward-Lennox and Addington Social Services.

An interview process will take place the afternoons of March 27-28 involving Orchard, human resources director Trina McGarvey, and two members of County council.

Walter Burt has been filling the position on an interim basis since Marlynne Ferguson left the post late in 2018 to pursue other employment.

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