Oakville paving the way for the future with new community hall

A new community hall in Oakville is bringing life to the town’s residents – and it’s been more than 15 years in the making.

“For a community to be a strong community, it needs a place to gather and without this building, we’d have nowhere to gather,” said Dennis Galbraith, committee chair, for the Oakville Community Centre Renewal.

If you head down the Trans-Canada Highway towards Portage la Prairie, you may notice a sign for the small farming community of about 650 people that has roots dating back to 1891.

Galbraith’s family has farmed there for more than a century. In 2008, he began leading discussions on how to replace an aging community hall.

The original structure built in 1949, was declared structurally unsafe after the community conducted a feasibility study in 2014. With a limited lifespan left on the old farm machine-style shed, residents took action and determined a new structure was needed.

“The time when this building was built, countless communities around Manitoba did the same thing, they built similar buildings,” Galbraith said.

“Over the decades, they’ve all ceased to operate, been closed, some have been renovated repeatedly but mostly they’ve aged out. We were in the same situation. We had to evaluate whether to renovate this building extensively or replace it.”

By 2017, residents decided to go ahead with fundraising for a new community hall and daycare addition in an effort to keep Oakville a thriving place for families to live.

“If you’ve ever been around in a group trying to decide to do something, you often hear the term ‘they,’ ‘they’ should do something, ‘they’ should do this or ‘they’ should do that,” Galbraith said.

“There was a group of us that decided that we could be ‘they’. We could get this done. It needed to be done because the alternative was unacceptable. To lose the services that this building provides was unacceptable.”

Galbraith said their old facility would house more than 60 events a year; everything from trivia nights, craft sales and fall suppers.

It hasn’t been easy raising money for building costs.

Over the past seven years, the community has fundraised just under $4 million with a significant portion of that funding coming from private donations, federal and provincial grants and a bridge loan of $1.2 million from the R.M. of Portage.

Galbraith said the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program announced back in 2015 by the federal government gave the opportunity for Oakville to apply for a grant worth just over $1 million.

In October 2022, Manitoba approved an investment total of $1.02 million towards the Oakville Early Learning Centre geared specifically to the building addition creating 40 spots for children in the community.

Community events have also assisted in fundraising and Oakville’s residents are actively working towards their goal to cover the remaining $700,000 in costs. Construction on the facility began in the summer of 2023.

“So we initially thought the project was going to cost about $3.7 million and we pretty much had that,” said Eric DeLong, president of Oakville Community Club.

“So when the project went out to tender, the bid came back about $1 million higher than we thought.”

Galbraith said some construction costs were increased to be able to include a Class 1 Kitchen for the facility, in addition to a geothermal heating system designed to lower energy costs in the future, with a higher cost upfront.

“One of the significant problems with volunteer-run privately owned buildings is going forward, the cost of heating and cooling the building becomes a significant operational cost,” Galbraith said.

“Geothermal was the one thing that would stay relatively consistent. The hydro to run it will go up, but incrementally it will be less than if we heated it with electricity. Geothermal was a way to hedge our costs of operating the building, going ahead 15, 20, 30, 40 years down the road.”

The new centre already has a waitlist for the daycare’s 40 spots and residents say it’s needed to accommodate the community’s growing population.

“It’s going to mean lots to lots of people, we have a lot of young families here,” said Grace DeLong, chairperson for the Oakville Early Learning Centre Board.

“We have 60 new homes in Oakville and a lot of young families have moved in and need child care.”

DeLong said they are anticipating hiring eight full-time staff for the facility and the community is targeting July 2 as an opening date for the daycare. A wedding has already been booked for the hall’s use this summer.

Despite Oakville’s smaller population, she said the town has shown resilience in the face of building costs and time needed for planning for the future.

“We have a special community, we have a very large group of very community-minded people that have put a lot of effort and a lot of work, gladly volunteering their time and their energy making this happen because their heart is in it,” DeLong said.

Galbraith said being a part of the planning, discussion and overseeing of the building’s construction has given him a history lesson and an appreciation for his community’s roots.

“When I was a young person growing up in this community, I didn’t realize all of the effort that other volunteer peers of the 1960s did,” Galbraith said.

“As my kids grew up here, I came to realize that unless you volunteer, the next generation doesn’t benefit. This is truly a pay it forward project.”

View original article here Source