KITCHENER -- The Region of Waterloo is debating the fate of a Cold War-era nuclear bunker in Kitchener's Schneider Park.

The bunker was built in 1966 in response to a threat of nuclear attacks. It has heating, water and sewage built in, but was flagged by staff as a health and safety risk as it started to show its age.

The 5,700 square foot shelter was designed to hold up to 40 people for several weeks.

"A head of government and other officials within the region to be able to operate, to use that as a training and operations centre," said Charles Allen, assistant director of facilities with the Region of Waterloo.

"There were some real threats and real concerns," Coun. Tom Galloway said.

Galloway was in school during the Cold War era and said many communities built bunkers.

"We had drills in school to go down in the basement, to put your hands over your heads and crouch onto the floor," he said.

The bunker was used as storage by a local rowing club for about 20 years, but they left in 2018. It was locked up after a hazardous material assessment flagged extensive structural damage.

"We found mould, lead, asbestos and mercury in the building," Allen said.

Now the region is looking at the next steps. Staff said demolishing it is the cheapest option and would cost about $225,000.

"But, it can be easily renovated for other purposes that are bonafide and needed for ourselves or even other community organizations," Galloway said.

Regional staff have performed a preliminary assessment to look into rehabilitating the space.

"Our assessment is close to a million dollars, so over four times the cost to demolish the building," Allen said.

Some regional councillors said they're hoping at least some of it can be salvaged for educational use for future generations.

A heritage impact assessment is expected in November and council will vote on saving or demolishing the bunker in late 2020 or early 2021.