Petitcodiac community group faces roadblocks converting church into library – New Brunswick

Almost a year after the Public Library Board in Petitcodiac, N.B., learned its local library could no longer stay in the building it occupied in the village’s downtown — those involved in the project are still unable to find a new location to reopen.

The municipality of Three Rivers, of which Petitcodiac is a part, did not renew the lease because the daycare that occupied part of the building needed room to expand, according to mayor Peter Saunders.

The library board said the community is feeling the impact of the loss.

“It’s not just about books. It’s not just about borrowing things or information. It’s a place where people gather, especially if you don’t have a place to go during the day,” library board trustee Chris Hayes said.

“If you’re on the streets or if you’re not able to go home during the day, like if you live in a group home, a library is one of the only places you can go without spending money and you can be there for a while,” he said.

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The board thought their prayers were answered last summer when a former church became available as an option for a future site last summer.

“The United Church here agreed to let us have the building basically as a donation to us without any charge except for a few expenses,” said Joyce Barbour, another library board trustee.

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The church was built in the 1880s and needs some work done before it can be brought up to the standards necessary for a provincial library.

“It had to have some structural inspections to make sure the floors could hold the weight of the books,” Barbour said.

“Obviously there are some renovations that have to be made, bathrooms have to be added upstairs,” she said.

Saunders said that 90 days ago, the province sent a letter saying they would not provide any funding for a building that didn’t have a sprinkler system.

“Our problem in the village of Petitcodiac is we have no municipal water, so we’d have to go with a sprinkler system with a tank system,” Saunders said.

While he didn’t have an estimate for how much a sprinkler system with a water tank would cost, he said it would likely be prohibitively expensive.

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“We were very shocked that we could not get funding for this building, we really are,” Saunders said, saying the United Church donated the building with the condition it be used as a library or a community centre.

That leaves the library board searching for private donations to cover the cost of a second opinion from an engineering firm, and possibly the cost of a sprinkler system.

“If the government says we need to have these things and we do, then perhaps they can find some more money for us,” Barbour said.

Hayes says he sees the impact of the loss of the library through his work as a priest at Saint Andrew’s Anglican Church in Petitcodiac.

“I’m running into people all the time now that can’t get a photocopy or can’t get a resume finished and that was something that our library used to provide.”

Searching for another location is out of the question for the library board.

“Cost aside, the importance of having this beautiful place, which is a landmark in Petitcodiac, continue to be a landmark for a different reason is important beyond dollars,” Hayes said.

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