Esquimalt pumps more cash into donated Saxe Point house

Esquimalt council has agreed to fork over thousands of additional dollars to finish making the Chafe house at Saxe Point Park more accessible.Council gave the green light on Monday to commit $30,000 from the capital project reserve fund to wrap up accessibility upgrades at 398 Fraser St. – the house that sits in the middle of a waterfront park in Esquimalt.The property was bequeathed by long-time resident Walter Chafe to Esquimalt. The township took possession last November. Last November, council agreed to use $15,000 in reserves to pay for interior upgrades and an exterior wheelchair ramp. The house still needs signage, pathway work, metal railings and other ramp accessories to bring the structure up to provincial building code standards.Until that happens, Rock Solid Foundation, a non-profit that facilitates youth anti-violence programs in schools, can’t move in as planned. It’s hoped the oganization can move in by the end of March, said Scott Hartman, Esquimalt director of parks and recreation services.“Everything has started to add up with money here,” said Chafe House neighbour Peter Ryan, who sits on Esquimalt’s access awareness committee.He asked council to prepare a comprehensive plan and budget before more work is done.“Are we going to put more money, good money after bad, and we’re not going to end up with a building that’s usable?” he asked.A special $32,000 trust exists to cover ongoing maintenance and upkeep costs to the property, and a covenant on the house restricts it from being rented or leased. A commercial activity also cannot go in.After a lengthy discussion, council agreed to see the project through to completion.“I don’t see how we cannot approve this to finish it off,” said Coun. Bruce McIldoon.Coun. Alison Gaul said if the upgrades aren’t completed, the house will sit unused. “I guess I feel stuck and a little baffled that the budget has tripled,” she said. “It’s not a little cost overrun.”emccracken@vicnews.com