An offer to purchase the Kinsmen Community Centre for $480,000 was approved by Ponoka town council.
The decision came after a special electronic vote was made June 15 and the offer to purchase was made by the owners of Cash Foods, which is also part of Hamilton’s IGA. The sale is concurrent with the sale of the parking lot to Cash Foods.
For the Town of Ponoka, it appears the sale of the centre is due to losing money on the building. The town’s 2018 budget, which is available on www.ponoka.ca, projects the building’s revenue at $25,000, while it’s expected to cost $34,900 to operate.
Actual numbers for 2016 and 2017 budgeted the same amount for revenue and those years showed losses of $8,800 and $10,600 respectively.
Council was initially to discuss the proposal June 12 but it appears because of a lengthy in camera session on other issues those presenting were forgotten, hence the need for a special electronic meeting.
Those presenters were Cash Foods’ (Hamilton’s IGA) co-owner Jim Hamilton, plus Greg Braat of Battle River Cooperators Insurance.
Hamilton wants to purchase the building to expand Hammy’s Liquor, while Braat wants to expand his offices for one section of the building, which would be separate from the liquor store. The current space of Hammy’s Liquor will be converted to a specialized part of the grocery store with ready-made meals for sale.
In an interview, Hamilton said negotiations with council have been ongoing for several years and he’s looking forward to taking the next step in the development of his property. “I approached previous council on it and I said the building is under utilized. And I approached them about selling it.”
“I had heard rumours that they wanted to divest of it, so I said, ‘If you’re going to leave it as a community centre I’d like to know because then I would build a liquor store in between the centre and the grocery store,’” he added.
At the time, the previous council voted 4-3 against selling the building. The current council voted 6-0 in favour (one councillor was unable to vote as they were away).
There are two areas the announcement created some concern: How the Kinsmen and Kinettes feel about the purchase as they were the groups that donated the building to the town. The other issue was the sudden notice.
A request for comment from the two groups wasn’t immediately available.
Some residents took to social media as they were concerned the decision came too quickly, plus they felt that the town should have received other offers from potential buyers.
Cash Foods actually has a first right of refusal on the building approved by the 1999 council of the day. This means that if the town put the building up for sale, Cash Foods could come in and match the price and still get the property.
In a press release from the town, Mayor Rick Bonnett said the goal has been to find ways to liquidate under-used properties.
“Selling the building to Cash Foods will increase the amount of retail activity and usable office space downtown, bringing more people to shop and work in downtown Ponoka. We received a fair price for the building, and the sale will generate new assessment and increased tax income for the town in 2019,” said Bonnett.
For Braat’s part, he too feels the offer is a fair one and he hopes to find ways to recognize the Kinsmen and Kinettes. This purchase provides Braat an opportunity to expand his office space from 1,600 square feet to 3,500 square feet. “We’re getting to the point where we need more seats,” said Braat.
One thing Braat intends to do is create a board room in the new space that will be open for not-for-profit community groups.
The sale of the building won’t be finalized until the end of the year so current bookings will be honoured until Dec. 31.
Hamilton added that both he and Braat are former Kinsmen members. Hamilton was the Kinsmen president when the centre was renovated in 1995.
Currently the Kinettes use the space for their monthly meetings as well as for their storage.
“I have offered to rent them a storage locker for three years at my cost,” said Hamilton.