A small gathering of the public braved last week’s winter storm to attend an information session at the Taghum Hall near Nelson to discuss options for buildings at the FortisBC South Slocan facility.
The electric power and gas distribution-retail giant is in the process of moving operations from South Slocan to a new $20-plus million centralized Kootenay Operations Centre near Castlegar in the fall.
Before the move the company is gauging interest from the public on what to do with the existing buildings — the office building, warehouse and Creel Fishing Lodge located at South Slocan next to the Kootenay River, midway between Nelson and Castlegar.
“I think we saw the beginning of a good conversation,” said Blair Weston, community relation’s manager with FortisBC.
Weston, along with Greg Nesteroff of Friends of South Slocan Staff House, held court to answer questions from the public.
“I think there was good information exchanged and hopefully the community comes back to us with some suggestions,” Weston said.
The new Kootenay Operations Centre is being built on Ootischenia Road south of the West Kootenay Regional Airport.
The new facility will have 23,000 square feet of office space and 7,000 square feet of warehouse space.
Fortis BC has said the South Slocan location has been important to electricity operations in the region for more than 100 years and will continue to play an important role into the future.
The company also notes the area is also popular for the community in South Slocan.
“The best-case scenario for us is for the community to be happy,” Weston explained.
“We presented some constraints around renovating the office building and moving the office building to the public,” he added. “We also listened to suggestions about what we can do to Creel Lodge and maintain the green space grounds on the area.”
Weston said initial cost estimates for upgrading the South Slocan office building have been tabbed at approximately $6.5 Million to renovate the office building today’s building code standards.
Upgrades to Creel Fishing Lodge is estimated at around $500,000.
“I’m glad FortisBC had this meeting,” said Ann Wood, one of the local concerned citizens in attendance.
“I’m really glad they are open to hearing from the community on what we would like because when (FortisBC) knocked down the old hall, the community knew nothing about it.”
Weston said FortisBC would move operations to near Castlegar in November of 2017.
The plan is to demolish the buildings as soon as they are vacated if no takers come forward.
“There’s no sense keeping them up any longer if (FortisBC) is not occupying them,” Weston said.
“Creel Lodge, we’d like to have a conversation on how we can proceed to keeping it around,” Weston added.
So it’s time to get down to business for the community to see if there’s enough interest in keeping the buildings, at least conserving the area as a Heritage site.
“I’m optimistic we can make this happen,” Wood said.
“I hope we can have more meetings to discuss how we can proceed. I feel there’s more interest because I don’t believe everyone in the village knew this meeting was going to happen.”
“We have to be optimistic something good is going to happen,” Wood added.