THE ongoing closure of 1st Rathmines Scout Hall due to asbestos concerns is hitting the small group hard.
Lake Macquarie City Council was forced to close the historic building in January after asbestos was found during routine maintenance works.
The building is now fenced off, the locks have been changed, and signs warn of the danger.
Locked inside the building is the group’s equipment and records.
Group Leader for 1st Rathmines Scouts Grace Curry said five months on, the group was struggling.
“There’s a lot fewer kids joining, and we’ve lost a third of the ones we had,” Ms Curry said.
“We’re down to 20 kids.”
The Rathmines group has shifted its meetings to a hall it shares with other community groups in Toronto.
They’re grateful to have an alternative venue, but it’s not the same.
The extra distance that the children are required to travel, coupled with uncertainty about the group’s future, had impacted on morale, Ms Curry said.
Having their equipment locked inside the building has only added to the frustration for the children and their parents.
“We can’t even take the kids camping because all of the tents, pergolas, barbecue gear, and PFDs (personal flotation devices) are locked inside,” parent Kasey Cousins said.
A spokesperson for council said only some of the items inside the hall are likely to be salvaged.
“The majority of the larger scout equipment can be salvaged; however, unfortunately, some of the porous equipment and paper items cannot,” the spokesperson said.
That means much of the scouts’ historic records, other paperwork, badges, flags and memorabilia might have to be destroyed.
Council said it had engaged an asbestos removalist to complete the remediation works.
“This building is recognised as a significant community asset, and it is intended that the building be restored and made available for use again as soon as practical,” the spokesperson said.
“Remediation works and cleaning of equipment will be completed by late 2017.”
Ms Curry said that was good news.
“We’re heartened by the fact that council is proceeding with the remediation of the hall,” she said.
“It’ll mean a lot for the children to get back in there.”
Ms Cousins said having the scouts in the hall was also a necessary deterrent to those who would do the place harm.
“It is a security issue, and we’re usually in there three nights a week with the lights on,” she said.
The hall is listed as an item of local/state significance.
Learn more about the dangers of asbestos at Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.