LEDA moves out of Forestry Heritage Centre

The Lakes Economic Development Association have officially moved out of the Village of Burns Lake owned Forestry Heritage Centre building.

The Lakes Economic Development Association (LEDA) have officially moved out of the Village of Burns Lake owned Forestry Heritage Centre building.

They had been cotenants at the building with the Burns Lake and District Chamber of Commerce for approximately two years.

As reported in the Lakes District News edition of July 15 2010, LEDA relocated from the building at 585 Hwy. 16, now known as the Interpretive Centre following outstanding issues the Village of Burns Lake was having with the use of the building.

Grant funding received from Softwood Industry Community Economic Adjustment Initiative administered by Western Economic Diversification for the construction of the building required it to be used as an interpretive centre and public space, with First Nations involvement. LEDA subsequently set up shop in the Forestry Heritage Centre, sharing the space with the Burns Lake and District Chamber of Commerce.

As reported in the Lakes District News edition on Jan. 25, 2012 a Village of Burns Lake in camera release stated that the Village of Burns Lake and the Regional District of Bulkley Nechako’s (RDBN) area B, Burns Lake rural have both decided not to renew LEDA’s funding agreement for 2012.

The village contributes $46,613 and RDBN’s area B contributes $62,988 to local economic development initiatives annually.

Of this, $60,000 went toward funding LEDA, $20,000 goes to tourism coordination and management in the Lakes District and $29,601 is for community economic development grants.

While Mayor Luke Strimbold said the village will still be making the $46,613 contribution to the RDBN for economic development purposes, he said the $60,000 that has gone to LEDA in the past will not be granted this year and said the reason being is that both the village council and RDBN’s area B director Bill Miller, would like to re-evaluate the vision of economic development for the region.

Brenda Hiebert LEDA chair confirmed LEDA’s recent relocation from the Forestry Heritage Centre.

She said, “LEDA has moved out of the Forestry Heritage Centre as of Feb. 29 2012. With our funding being cut we have to watch the dollars we do have left and the expenses at the Forestry Heritage Centre were just to great for us.” While Hiebert did not want to comment further on the reasons for the move she did say that the Village of Burns Lake was not renewing LEDA’s tenacy agreement for 2012.

Hiebert said, “We are currently without a home, however we are actively looking for affordable space. Our phone is being call forwarded to Cindy Shelford [LEDA’s economic development officer]. Our possessions are in storage for now until we find some new office space. We have some projects to clean up and we are exploring new funding opportunities.”

Laurie Reimer chamber manager said that the rental agreement for the Forestry Heritage Centre is still in the process of being worked out.

“Any rental/tenancy agreements  have not been discussed yet,” she said.

Late last month, councillors unanimously agreed to increase the rent at the Forestry Heritage Centre.

A council review of the amount of rent charged for the building resulted in an amount of $800 per month being set, which excludes all utility charges.

Previously the village charged $100 rent per year for the building, including snow plowing, general building maintenance and lawn care. Tenants were responsible for paying the utilities, such as BC Hydro, natural gas, phone and internet bills.

As reported in the Lakes District News edition of Feb. 15, 2012, council released an in camera resolution which stated that the building would be reserved primarily for the operation of the Visitor Information Centre, and that the proponent would be charged rent at a fair market monthly expense to operate from the building.

Council has also previously made a recommendation that the Regional District of Bulkley Nechako (RDBN) proceed with contract negotiations with the Burns Lake and District Chamber of Commerce for the operation of the Visitor Information Centre.

Sheryl Worthing village chief administrative officer said that the organization that is chosen may also choose to rent out space in the building to another organization, if it is determined that there is extra space available.

Funding for operation of the Visitor Information Centre comes from the RDBN’s economic development function, and is contributed to by area B, Burns Lake rural and the Village of Burns Lake.

“The Village owns the Forestry Heritage Centre which will be used to operate the Visitor Information Centre from, therefore the village will collect rent for this building,” she said.A review of commercial rental rates was completed by Stephanie Beerling, Village  of Burns Lake director of corporate services and was provided to council.

Examples were provided to council which included a rental rate of $550 per month for a 650 square foot building which included a common entrance area and a rental rate of $1260 per month for a 1,550 square foot building. Beerling said these rates included insurance, general building maintenance, property taxes, janitorial services, municipal water, sewer and garbage collection rates.

Further examples were also provided which included a rental rate of $3,600 per month for a 3,000 square foot building and a variable rental rate depending on the term for anther building. Beerling said the rate for this particular building ranged from $15 per square foot for a one year lease to $9 per square foot for a five year lease.

“The average commercial rental rate per square foot is $9.94 in Burns Lake,” Beerling said, adding that the Forestry Heritage Building is approximately 2,790 square feet in size.

Beerling also noted in her report that the Lakes Artisan Cooperative currently rent the Interpretive Centre building from the village for a cost of $500 per month. She said the building is 1,500 square feet and the rent included property taxes, municipal water, sewer and garbage collection rates as well as snow plowing and general building maintenance. This equates to 33 cents per square foot. The cooperative pay their own BC Hydro and natural gas bills.

“It is the approximate overall size of the building,” Beerling said.

Councillor John Illes asked how much the current BC Hydro and Pacific Northern Gas charges are for the Forestry Heritage Centre?.

“I think they [LEDA and the chamber] pay $500 per month each,” said Mayor Luke Strimbold.

“That’s $12,000 a year for heating …. wow, we just did energy upgrades to that building,” Coun. Illes said.

Councillor Susan Schienbein asked when the lease agreement for the Interpretive Centre expires.

Worthing said, “It is a one year lease that expires in August 2012.”

“We break even at $500 per month at the Interpretive Centre,” said Mayor Strimbold, adding that he thought $500 per month rent is set too low for the Interpretive Centre. “We are going to have to take a look at the rent for the Interpretive Centre in August,” he added.

Councillor Quentin Beach said he felt the Lakes Artisan Cooperative was a different type of organization from LEDA and the chamber.

“It is a tourism incentive and a way to show the local arts and crafts, they sell necklaces and beads,” he said.

“Yes, similar to Process 4 circle arts Gallery who is also selling arts, crafts and necklaces,” said Mayor Strimbold.

Councillor Beach said he thinks it is difficult to set a rental rate based on square footage in Burns Lake.

“I think you just have to go on your gut feeling …. I think $1,500 per month in rent [only] would be fair,” he added.

Councillor John Illes said he would like the rent to be all inclusive of utilities and suggested $1,200 per month, all inclusive.”

At $1,200 per month Worthing said the village would just be breaking even.

Councillor Frank Varga, who was not present at the meeting had previously sent input to council. He suggested a rental rate of $1,813 per month, which is 65 cents per square foot. “He said that’s the rate he would be comfortable with,” Mayor Strimbold said.

“We have to keep in mind that the rent that we set will have a major impact on the chamber, they are only paying $100 per year now,” Mayor Strimbold said.

Worthing said the chamber does make a rental income from the building for the lease of the heritage room, which adds up to be about $6,000 per year.

“It’s a risk because on one hand we are saying we want you to be in this building for the Visitor Information Centre, but on the other hand we are tying them to the building with high expectations,” Mayor Strimbold added.

“I think $1,200 does sound high …. what about $800 rent plus they pay their own utility bills?” suggested Coun. Beach.

Councillor Illes said he would agree to the $800 monthly rental rate providing the village paid the utility bills and then forwarded the utility bill invoices on to the chamber for repayment.

“In the past there has been instances where the utility bills haven’t been paid,” he added.

Councillors unanimously agreed to the motion.