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City rents out St. Pat’s-Alexandra to Trailer Park Boys

HRM’s costs associated with former school total at least $655,000

by Hilary Beaumont

The former St. Pat's-Alexandra school. (Photo by Hilary Beaumont)
The former St. Pat's-Alexandra school. (Photo by Hilary Beaumont)
Graffiti on the back wall of the school. (Photo by Hilary Beaumont)
Graffiti on the back wall of the school. (Photo by Hilary Beaumont)


[Updated Friday, April 19]

HRM rented out St. Patrick’s-Alexandra to a film crew that’s working on the third Trailer Park Boys movie in an effort to offset costs associated with the former school. 

Extras, actors and the rest of the crew used the building as a base camp while filming in downtown Halifax. Wednesday was the last day of filming.

The Trailer Park Boys approached the HRM Film Office about shooting at the former school. The film company agreed to pay $1,000 a week to rent the school, for a total of $6,000.

Since HRM gained possession of the vacant school in 2011, however, it has cost the city $655,162.

By comparison, the concert scandal cost HRM $359,550.

Minimum maintenance, utilities and security costs totalled about $210,000 over 2011-12, and $322,568 so far in 2012-13.

On Thursday, graffiti covered the back and sides of the former school like patches on an old pair of jeans. Much of it has been there for months. Upstairs, tiles were missing from the ceiling. A ceiling tile and a fluorescent light casing had fallen to the floor.

Inside the building Monday, the heat was on full blast, despite the spring weather. 

Chase said the municipality doesn’t anticipate any further St. Pat’s-Alexandra rentals at this time.


Costs continue to mount

In 2009, the Halifax Regional School Board voted to close the P-9 school. Security was hired in 2011 after the municipality took possession of the property, Chase said.

In the summer of 2011, the city requested proposals for the property. Three non-profit groups and three for-profit developers applied.

In December, 2011, HRM attempted to sell the property to for-profit Jono Developments. However, three non-profit groups in the Gottingen-area neighbourhood brought the city to court, arguing the municipality broke its own rules for the sale of surplus schools.

On Sept. 24, 2011, the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia found the three groups—the North End Community Health Centre, the Mi’kmaq Native Friendship Centre and the Richard Preston Centre for Excellence—were correct.

The court case cost the municipality at least $100,000 last year due to legal outsourcing.

In recent months, Pink-Larkin sought costs associated with the firm’s pro-bono representation of the three community groups. The firm was awarded $7,531.43 from Jono Developments and $22,594.29 from the city.


Community groups asked to use school

Last December, the three Gottingen-area groups asked permission to use the former school for a Christmas party and tree-lighting ceremony, but HRM denied their request citing safety concerns.

They didn’t have the minimum $2 million liability insurance while the Trailer Park Boys were covered up to $10 million, HRM spokesperson Tiffany Chase said.

“If anything were to happen in relation to the event, HRM would have been liable,” she said.


No dates set for city consultations or RFP

The three non-profit groups are currently consulting the Gottingen-area neighbourhood about what they want to see in the former school building.

They plan to ask the municipality to sell them the building at less than market sale.

Originally, the groups offered an amount of $1 for the nearly four-acre property.

The city initially accepted Jono Developments’ offer of $3 million.

HRM plans to launch its own separate consultation process around late spring or early summer this year.

After the consultations are over, council will issue a request for proposals (RFP), and then vote on any non-profit proposals the city receives for the school.

HRM hasn’t yet set dates for the consultations or RFP.

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