During their regular meeting on Sept. 2, Vauxhall town council heard from a food bank delegation consisting of Vauxhall and Area Food Bank Society chair Laurie Gallup and board member Margaret Tashiro. The purpose of the delegation was to inquire about the possibility of the Food Bank taking over use of the old library building once the new one is completed.
“We are here on behalf of (the food bank) to inquire of the town of Vauxhall might have space in one of their buildings to donate to us,” she said.
The food bank was formed in 1997 and is dedicated to providing food and assistance to the communities of Vauxhall, Hays, Enchant, and the rural areas surrounding them.
“We would not be able to operate without the generosity of these communities,” said Gallup.
From the beginning, Vauxhall was chosen as the main site for distribution, and in 1997, free space was provided by the Vauxhall Royal Branch No. 193. However, when the Legion needed to expand, the food bank needed a new home. It was at that time that the Bow River Irrigation District stepped in to provide space, beginning March 21, 2000.
“That has been a great blessing for us this past 14 years,” said Gallup.
When the Horizon MAP (Mennonite Alternative Program) School moved out of the space being shared with the food bank, BRID was unable to find a suitable renter, and consequently the building could possibly be moved to the Municipal District of Taber Shooting Complex, meaning the food bank has once more been left out in the cold.
“They have informed us the building will be removed from the property possibly in the fall,’ said Gallup.
Gallup named off several options being explored currently by the food bank, which included sharing space with the Lions (not possible due to the expected sale of their building) to purchasing and renovating their own building (which would put them far into an operating deficit similar to issues currently being seen with the Taber Food Bank.
“I don’t think we would be financially stronger than they are,” she said.
“So I don’t think buying a building is an option for us.”
A third option would be to close down the food bank in Vauxhall, forcing those who use the service to head to Taber or Brooks for food bank services. This would cause hardships for those food banks, according to Gallup, as well as hardship for the people using the service due to having to travel a longer distance to get the help they need.
“We don’t want to give up that easily,” said Gallup. “We want to fight for a solution as long as we can.”
“But we are running out of time.”
With a new library building currently in the works, The old building will eventually become an empty town property. Gallup said the food bank has never paid rent or utilities on any of the places they operated in before, but that they would like to have an opportunity to explore the option further.
During discussion, Deputy Mayor Richard Phillips asked acting Chief Administrative Officer Cris Burns what the town was intending to do with the library building once it was no longer in use.
“I was going to ask if you wanted to tear it down or sell it,” replied Burns.
Coun. Christie Sorensen said it seemed a good fit, because the building will have no dedicated use and the food bank needs a place to operate.
“It would seem like in the short term, that’s a good answer,” said Phillips.
Coun. Linda English asked what kind of deal might be worked out in regards to utilities and rent, and if the town would be required to pay their bills. Phillips replied that might not be necessary if the food bank was willing or able to pay the utilities themselves.
“You could put in there that they could pay what they can,” said Sorensen. “They’re not a money-maker.”
One issue that came up was the fact the new library building is not yet ready to be moved in to, and may not be operational until next year. if the food bank were to shut down for any length of time, there’s a possibility it might not be able to open them again.
“We need to find somewhere for them,” Sorensen said. “People use them and people need them.”
Following discussion, council decided to make the old library available to the food bank once the library has moved out of it. The food bank would be able to operate rent-free, but utilities would need to be paid on the site.