Oxford School building in Bentley closed to all public access

(communitystories.ca)

Effectively immediately, the Oxford School building in Bentley is closed to the public out of concerns for public safety.

“The Oxford School Building be closed to all public access, due to the significant safety concerns, all utilities are shut off and the building is to be checked weekly,” said the Town of Bentley in a release following the April 12 council meeting.

During the meeting, the Town of Bentley administration along with representation from Associated Engineering presented the findings of a Building Condition Assessment Report (BCAR) regarding the building.

Major concerns regarding the structural integrity of the building were identified. Some key areas of concern include the deterioration of the roof, load-bearing brick walls and foundations. There are also building code deficiencies that are required for public occupancy that are currently not being met.

“Administration for the Town of Bentley takes public safety very seriously and immediately initiated a competitive process to hire a Structural Engineer and an Architect to undertake a more thorough analysis of the building and structure,” said Marc Fortais, Cheif Administrative Officer (CAO) of Bentley.

The estimated cost for repairs to the building is more than $1.2 million dollars. Due to this significant cost to repair as well as an analysis of the current utilization of other community buildings, administration made a recommendation to consider demolishing the building.

“Upon review of the Oxford file it was evident that there were significant safety concerns regarding the building even back in 2009 when the Stantec assessment was undertaken,” said Fortais.

“Given the significant cost of the repairs $1.2 million dollars and the fiscal responsibility that administration has in managing town assets and public tax dollars, it made sense to make a recommendation to consider a potential demolishing of the building. As soon as we had the results of the study it was shared at a public council meeting and the building was immediately closed to the public.”

Fortais said that in 2007 there was approximately $30,000 spent on roof repairs and local community donations helped to fund the repairs along with local taxpayer funding through the Town of Bentley.

In 2009 the town received a Community Facility Enhancement Program Grant for $5,450 to help with the cost of a structural assessment, conducted by Stantec Engineering. The assessment indicated at that time that the building structural systems appeared to be in poor to dangerous condition and mainly focused on the roof structure not the foundation or slab.

Administration continued to reach out to provincial authorities to find funding to support a possible restoration but without a provincial historical designation, funding was limited and potentially only up to $50,000.

According to local archives, Oxford School was built in the 1920’s for around $12,000. It operated as Oxford School District 687. In 1951 there was a ministerial order changing the name of Oxford School District no. 687 to Bentley School District 687.

Bentley Council designated Oxford School as a municipal historic resource and Fortais said that the previous council and administration applied to the province in an effort to designate the building as a Provincial Historic Resource Designation. In 2002 administration received notification from the Province, that Oxford is only primarily of local significance and does not have province-wide significance to merit a designation as either a registered or provincial historic resource.

A public information session is planned for late May or early June and a decision regarding demolishing the building will be made by the fall once a public information session has been held.

The session will have information regarding the condition of the building and it will allow administration to collect input regarding a plan for the municipal park (Elks Park) that incorporates historical aspects of the Oxford Building and possible amenities.

The Town said that once input has been gathered, a plan will be developed for the park to share with mayor and council and the public for consideration. Further updates regarding the date and time for the public the information session will be posted on the town website, Facebook and the community newsletter.

A detailed copy of the report is available upon request at the Town Office.

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