ATHABASCA — Everyone in town knew it already, but now it's official, the 'Old Brick School' built on 48th St. in 1913 has now been designated as a provincial historic resource by the Ministry of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women
For more than a decade local officials, history buffs and other community members have lobbied the government to have what is properly called the Athabasca Public School designated as an historic site, and finally, says Athabasca mayor Colleen Powell, whose has been a part of that lobby since the beginning, have finally paid off.
Powell says she is “ecstatic” at the news, but this is just the beginning. The real work of applying for grants begins and numerous meetings with Gary Chen, a heritage conservation advisor with the ministry now begins.
“I've been trying to get this for 10 years,” Powell said. “Gary Chen, who is our man with (Culture and Tourism) ... he has worked with the Train Station people, with the United Church people, which are also both provincial historic sites and now we've got a third one with the Brick School. He will pilot us to the project.”
Previously there were two opportunities a year to apply for grants but changes have put that to February only so there are a few months before the town can find out if they are successful in their bid for matching funds.
“It is matching money up to $100,000,” she said. “Now, it doesn't mean you get the $100,000 because you and everybody else in the province is applying for that money, but the Train Station has stick handled that entire restoration through matching with casino money and with grants from (Culture and Tourism).”
Last year Athabasca County chose to pay out their share of the historical building, putting almost $1 million toward the building and handing full ownership to the town.
“Although it's a town building, we haven't put a penny in there," said Powell. “We have the $940,000 odd dollars from the county that would be their half of the first stage of the restoration that was looked at by Manasc Isaac (Architects) a year or so ago. And that money will be used to match for grants.”
Powell said the town will be relying on the expertise of others to determine where restoration on the building will start and noted it will be a long-term project.
“This is not a six-month project; it's going to take a few years. We do have the study that Manasc Isaac did that's divided into three parts they called ‘must do,’ ‘should do,’ ‘nice to do,’” said Powell. “So, the first step we will do is the ‘should do.’ Also, part of our agreement with the county was that we split the utilities off from the theatre because although it's our theatre, it is managed by the Multiplex and therefore is half-funded by the county.”
Chen will be attending a Town of Athabasca public works meeting next month and Powell hopes things will get moving after that.
“Gary is scheduled to come April 13 to a public works meeting,” she said. “That's where we'll start. So, when Gary comes, we will sit down and start planning.”