Courtesy of the City of Quesnel:
Editor's Note -- this week's Quesnel City Council Column is written by Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson. He can be reached via email here
I moved to Quesnel in 1985 to teach science at Quesnel Secondary School. My classroom was at the south end of the building with an exterior cinder block wall that we had to use duct tape on to seal some cracks the winter wind would blow through. It’s long past time the QSS/QJS building is abandoned as a school facility. Kudos to the School District and the Province for collaborating to first relocate the students to Maple Drive and to plan for a new middle school on the Maple Drive site.
The abandonment of the QJS building this spring has resulted in many rumours and questions about what will happen with the building and the land it sits on. These rumours and questions will ramp up when the School District has moved out of the building completely and taken steps to secure it against potential vandalism and vagrancy.
Unlike some of the other schools that have closed in the past that are owned by the School District, the QJS property belongs to the Province. It was a Crown land grant for the specific purpose of building an educational facility. Once there are no educational programs offered on the property and the buildings have been demolished, the land reverts back to the Crown.
This is an important point: the buildings must be demolished prior to the property reverting back to the Crown, giving the Province the ability to engage in discussions with potential agencies about the best use of this important piece of land in North Quesnel. So, the first step in the process of repurposing the QJS property is to have the buildings demolished as quickly as possible. Both the School District and the City have already engaged the Province in discussions about expediting this necessary first step.
Once the buildings are demolished and the property has reverted back to the Crown, the Province will engage in dialogue with First Nations that have an interest over the land and with the City of Quesnel. Depending on the outcome of those discussions, the Province has a number of different ways to make the property available to a new owner: issue another land grant for a specific purpose, transfer the ownership of the property to a new agency (usually to achieve some provincial objective), exchange the property for other property elsewhere in the City that the Province has an interest in, or engage in a market price sale of the property with an appropriate agency that will use it for some clearly stated objective (e.g. housing).
To date, there are no firm plans for the QJS property that the City is aware of, or that we have ourselves. However, Council has engaged the Province in discussions on a number of occasions about how we would like to see the QJS property used and made the Province aware that we would be interested in acquiring the property in order to achieve our objectives. The primary objective of the City, of course, would be to use the property for a mixed housing development that would meet a number of needs in our community and assist us to accommodate the homeowners in North Quesnel who may be dislocated from their property should the Interconnector go ahead.
The City of Quesnel will continue to work proactively with the School District to see the old QJS buildings demolished as soon as possible and we will keep the community apprised of any progress on the disposition of the land as that process evolves.