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Co-op annual meeting highlights new building plans

The Delmas Co-op board made a 10-minute powerpoint presentation about the benefits of building a new grocery store in Masset at its well-attended annual general meeting Sunday afternoon (Jan. 30).
The presentation started out with photographs of the rotting floors, leaky roofs and cramped spaces of the current grocery store - familiar sights to the co-op members. It then moved on to show photographs taken in a store in Carstairs, Alberta, which is the same size and design as the store the board would like to build in Masset.
A few co-op members could be heard saying "wow" under their breath as they viewed the Carstairs store's wide aisles, full service deli, and large meat and dairy departments.
The new store which the board hopes to begin building this year would have 16,000 square feet, president Glenn Fahlman said, which is 25-percent more space than the existing store.
However, the board isn't ready to embark on the new project yet. This month, it's asking for tenders; by early March the board should be ready to call a special meeting of all co-op members, to present the cost and decide whether to go ahead or not.
Mr. Fahlman said the estimated cost of the new store is $3-million. The board has been saving up over the past several years and has almost $1.6-million set aside, but the rest of the money will have to be borrowed.
Co-op members had several questions about the presentation, including whether the new store would have health food displays, and why co-op employees weren't wearing hair nets in the photos taken in the Masset store.
Robin Brown asked why the board was planning to build the new store next to the existing store on Main Street, instead of exploring the possible tax advantages of building on reserve land.
Mr. Fahlman replied that the co-op already owns the empty lot next door and the land has been cleared.
Co-op members also heard a presentation from general manager Richard Clarmont, who explained that rising freight costs and a monthly sale were behind this year's drop in net savings ($441,000 for the year ended Sept. 30, 2004, compared to net savings of $522,000 the previous year). Sales, however, were the highest in the co-op's history, at $11-3.million, compared to $10.9-million the year before.
Getting goods to the islands continues to be one of the co-op's biggest challenges. Not only is it expensive, but several members said they were frustrated about how long it has been taking to get orders from the building supplies department.
Mr. Clarmont said the co-op is considering putting the freight contract out for bids, in an attempt to lower costs and get supplies here more quickly.
Three directors - Mr. Fahlman, Lynda Osborne and Kathy Repp - saw their terms expire and come up for election at the meeting. All three put their names forward, and were acclaimed to new three-year terms after no one else was nominated.