A celebration of the arrival of the new grand piano at Martin Exeter Hall on March 22, 2016 with the 100 Mile Festival of the Arts committee and its funding supporters, including politicians from the Cariboo Regional District, (Margo Wagner, third from left, standing) and Al Richmond (far right); and District of 100 Mile House Mayor Mitch Campsall (fourth from right). File photo.

District works to reopen Martin Exter Hall

Flood damage repairs delayed after discovery of asbestos issues

The closure of Martin Exeter Hall for repairs after the discovery of a flooded basement that happened sometime during the wildfire season in 100 Mile House has left local performing arts groups and students high and dry since September.

Operated by the 100 Mile Development Corporation, CAO Roy Scott says when the flooded basement was discovered after the area wildfire evacuations, water damage had occurred that was traced to a leaky hot water heater – and then damage repairs escalated from there.

“There was a quantity of issues there. They had a flood, and then in addressing the issue, they found there was asbestos down there.”

Once asbestos is disturbed, it’s no longer safe and must be removed, so a time-consuming rehabilitation process of ripping that hazardous old material was the first priority before any other repairs could begin.

It was not until the insurance adjusters and their related experts were inspecting the building that the asbestos was even discovered, he adds.

Scott says that rehab project tender was awarded in the beginning of November, with staff’s latest timeline estimates for the repairs being into the New Year before completion and reopening of the hall.

“Unfortunately, it is just a slow process. If we hadn’t have had the asbestos issue to deal with, then we would have been up and running already.”

Scott says once you replace heaters, it then becomes an issue of questioning whether the whole heating system itself is current enough to work with the new installations.

“I’ve already requested quotations to, in fact, replace the existing heating system. If we are in there now, let’s do it right.”

Noting if that gets approved by council, he says it won’t delay the repairs, as “if it’s going to be done, it will be done at the same time.”

While this led to finding yet more minor repairs needed, Scott says that barring anything unforeseen circumstances on “an old building,” Martin Exeter Hall should be reopened in time for booking the annual Cowboy Concert in February 2018.

The historic Martin Exeter Hall in 100 Mile House is venue to a variety of shows with local theatre, concerts and performances all held there regularly, from festivals and events providing a platform for local talent that displays artists of all ages who perform and are adjudicated in a variety of categories.

While the PSO Storefront School operated in the hall basement, Scott explains it is now educating students in the conference room over in The Lodge.

The CAO says this means the alternative school students are still in classrooms, but the Development Corp. is losing some rental income from the Valley Room, as well as hall rentals typically happening even more frequently over Christmas.

“It won’t be an overly significant amount of money [in rental losses]. I haven’t done the numbers, but I would probably guess we are going to lose about $10,000.”

The hall offers a professional stage, lighting and sound – and a grand piano that the Festival of the Arts committee fund-raised over many events to pay for more than 50 per cent of its cost, the remainder supplemented by the South Cariboo Joint Committee grants (District of 100 Mile House/Cariboo Regional District funding).

“It’s unfortunate that the water heater broke [and] that it’s impacting a number of groups,” says Scott. “But, things are moving along as quickly as we can and we … want to get people in there as quickly as possible. It’s just a process we have to go through.”

See related story on page A6 about the importance of Martin Exeter Hall to the performance community.

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