Repairs coming for historic Penticton building

Leir House, built in 1927, is going to be getting a facelift.

Leir House, built in 1927, is going to be getting a facelift.

Council voted on Sept. 2 to divert $38,000 from the gas tax grant to pay for some repairs that are urgently needed by the historic building, which has been leased from the city since 1982 by the Penticton and District Community Arts Council.

Under this $1-a-year lease, the arts council is responsible for maintenance of buildings and grounds. But while the arts council has been able to maintain the day-to-day upkeep, they have not been financially able to handle larger items, like landscaping and repairs.

“The level of repair and maintenance undertaken over the past several years has been minimal,” said Anthony Haddad, director of development services. “The majority of work over the past few years has been completed by city staff, as is the landscaping which has been maintained by city parks for at least a decade.”

The arts council has recently requested that the city facility staff complete some of the deferred maintenance, such as the deck and fire escape that has become detached from the exterior wall.

Judy Sentes, sitting in as deputy mayor, supported staff making the repairs.

“I think the important word here is safety,” she said. “It is certainly a heritage building … we must keep it safe.”

Sentes said the goal is to address the immediate safety issues, and have staff work out a revised lease agreement with the arts council, recognizing their inability to pay for maintenance of Leir House. The immediate repairs required by the facility total $38,000 and include the fire escape replacement, deck replacement, mobility improvements — replacing the existing lift with a ramp —  and electrical works to B.C. Safety Authority standards.

City staff will be working with the arts council to create a revised lease, to be completed by July 31, 2015. The historic building was constructed under the supervision of Hugh Charles Leir, whose family included 11 children. Leir was known for organizing the first Teen Town in B.C. and the Leir House was a gathering place for young people.