1st Rathmines Scout Hall reopened today after asbestos removal works | photos

THE Scouts are back in their hall at Rathmines after a nine-month lock-out was enforced to enable asbestos to be removed from the building.

Lake Macquarie mayor Kay Fraser handed the keys of the 1st Rathmines Scout Hall back to the Scouts regional commissioner to special duties in Lake Macquarie City, Phil Murphy, today.

Mr Murphy said it had been a long wait for the local Scouts and their families.

“Today has been greatly anticipated. They’re keen to get back in,” Mr Murphy said of the group’s young charges.

So much so that a number of Scouts had arranged to visit the hall tonight to paint parts of the hall interior, he said.

“And already today we’ve started putting some of our gear back where it needs to go.”

Lake Macquarie City Council enforced an immediate closure of the building in January when asbestos was found during routine maintenance works.

The building was fenced off, the locks to the building were changed, and signs were erected to warn people off the site.

The presence of asbestos in the building was a serious concern because breathing in airborne asbestos fibres can cause asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Council engaged experts to remove the asbestos safely. The remediation work required the replacement of sections of walls and ceiling panels, as well as extensive cleaning and sealing of surfaces.

The hall’s closure hit the Scouts hard.

They were forced to find temporary accommodation in Toronto; their much-loved camping and barbecue gear was off-limits, locked up inside the Rathmines hall; and morale was sapped.

In May, Group Leader for 1st Rathmines Scouts, Grace Curry, told the Lakes Mail the group’s numbers had taken a serious hit.

“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.”

There were also fears that much of the Scouts’ equipment stored in the hall might have to be destroyed because of asbestos contamination.

Mr Murphy said the good news was that few items inside the hall had been lost.

“Most of the losses appear to be in paperwork, and fabric items. We’ve retained all of our tents and camping gear,” he said.

“It doesn’t look like there’s going to be significant outlays to replace the losses.”

Mr Murphy said the council had also helped the Scouts through the provision of $600 in community grants.

The group’s focus was now on rebuilding its membership base, and publicising its return to Rathmines.

“The doors have been reopened and we hope to rebuild our numbers,” Mr Murphy said.

The Scouts planned to spread the word about their comeback at the Rathmines Catalina Festival on Sunday, October 29.

“Certainly, that will be a good opportunity for us to fund-raise and promote our activities in the hall,” he said.

Mayor Kay Fraser said she was pleased the building had been made safe.

“It’s great to see the Scouts back in the hall. They’re a very dedicated group,” Cr Fraser said.

The hall’s historic links to the former RAAF base at Rathmines made it a very important building, she said.

“We need to protect our historic buildings.”

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