Assiginack facing $700,000 repairs to its bank and post office building

MANITOWANING—Assiginack Township council discussed the condition of a building it owns in the community (115 Arthur Street in Manitowaning, that is currently being leased out to the Bank of Montreal and Canada Post Corporation for office space), after receiving an engineering study that shows that over $700,000 worth of renovations and work is needed to be done on the building. Council is reviewing all its options, other than just repairing the existing building. However, one thing is clear, no one on council wants to see either lessee to leave the community.

“Obviously, we don’t want to lose either the Bank of Montreal or Canada Post from our community, they both provide very important services here,” stated Councillor Rob Maguire. “And we will do everything to accommodate both of them. We’re going to be investigating all our alternatives and options to maintain the services and housing along with being as cost efficient as possible. We will look at all options and alternatives and health and safety are the most important things to keep in mind.”

“We certainly don’t want to lose these services,” said Councillor Maguire, who called the cost estimates provided by the engineer “alarming.”

“We had an engineering report done on the building and they found several deficiencies,” said Assiginack Mayor Dave Ham. “If you hire engineers to do a study of a building, they will always find things that need to be improved. The engineers have provided a cost estimate of over $700,000 to do all of the repairs. If we did all these repairs, everything would need to be done right to the nines and the building would be better than it has ever been before.”

The cost estimates, “are preposterous,” stated Mayor Ham, saying the building, “is in an excellent strategic location for the community. The minor renovations outlined in the report that require work repairs, we could probably address in a summer internally. I think we can all live with what is there if certain, major repairs are made. Primarily, the report said that that the leaks in the basement and maybe the front steps and ramp at the front of the building are the two primary things that need to be redone.”

“We have tough decisions to make,” said Councillor Hugh Moggy. “But, my gosh, the cost estimates are outrageous.”

“One way or another, we don’t want to lose the bank or the post office,” stated Councillor Moggy. “I can remember years ago when the bank pulled out of the municipality, it was one of the worst days I spent as a reeve and on council. I am hoping, regardless of what we do, we can keep the post office and the bank here. They have both been valuable parts of the community for years.”

However, Councillor Moggy said, “I would hate for the township to spend all that money on an old building. I’m certain it won’t fall down any time soon, but we probably have to make decisions within five years, sooner rather than later. We are going to have to do something. We’ve had some concerns raised about the building by some tenants.”  He noted the majority of the work being proposed is cosmetic in nature, but there are some things that are more serious and work needs to be carried out.”

“We have some tough decisions to make but we sure don’t want to lose either bank or the post office from the community. We have to try to find the best solution,” continued Councillor Moggy. “If we had lots of money, there would be no problem,” he said, noting the township has contacted both leesees but haven’t yet heard back from either.

Councillor Dave McDowell said, “There are some repairs that are major and will have to be carried out. This will mean having to move the tenants out for a while these repairs are carried out. One of the many ideas we are tossing around is purchasing a couple of prefabricated modular buildings and moving the tenants into them while the renovation work is being done.” Once the major repairs are completed, the tenants could move back into the building and the township could sell the prefab buildings for use as camps, for example, he said. He said several there are a few locations that the prefab buildings could be place  for use by the tenants in the downtown or in close proximity to the area.

“One thing we don’t want to see is losing either the bank or the post office,” said Councillor McDowell.

Councillor McDowell says the township already faces deficits on the building in question, $7,000 per year.

“Waterproofing the building obviously needs to be done,” said Councillor McDowell,  who pointed out structurally, the building is in good shape and there are not huge concerns at this point. “We have directed our office staff to come back with options, alternatives and costs and then we need to select the best option.”

Councillor Christianna Jones said, “We’re going to do whatever we can, and have to, to keep the bank and post office in the community. It’s important to the local community, and the surrounding community as well.”

“But there also needs to be balance in looking at repairing an older building or having a temporary solution,” said Councillor Jones, who noted the Toronto Dominion Bank in Little Current is in a modular building in the downtown area and has been for a number years.

The building location in Manitowaning “is perfect,” stated Councillor Jones. “There are not huge structural concerns with the building at this time. But there definitely needs to be repairs done, and definitely we need to look at what we can to keep the services in the community.”

The engineering study was carried out by J.L. Richards Engineers-Architects-Planners in 2021. “For the purposes of this report, it is assumed that the Township of Assiginack will continue to operate it as commercial space,” the study report, released July 5, 2021, says. “It is JLR’s recommendation that resources should be allocated to carry out these repairs prior to entering into another lease, unless noted otherwise.”

“Note that our recommendations are general in nature, and therefore detailed engineering design for the repairs are required before the Township of Assiginack undertakes the repair work,” the engineers’ report says. “All other deficiencies should be monitored by the Township of Assiginack and further reviewed and/or addressed in a subsequent assessment. These “deficiencies to be monitored” are included in this report so that future reviews can determine if the defects found at that time are new or existing, and if they have worsened over time.”

In a summary of the recommendations made by J.L. Richards, many architectural recommendations were made including: further investigation is required to determine extent of repair and waterproofing below grade, repair and repaint all painted floors, ceiling and walls on both levels, repair and replace all PFT damaged ceiling on both levels,  replace the handrail system in the stairwell, repair the interior floor  at the main entry doors, redesign and replace the (building) main entrance stair, ramp, landing, and guards to upgrade to current codes and regulations; replace concrete pad between sidewalk and entry stairs in conjunction with replacement of stairs; replace loading dock and stairs.

Under structural recommendations, J.L Richards indicated “further investigation is required to determine the cause of the water penetration through the north and east concrete block walls in room one (basement), and further investigation is required to determine the cause of he water penetration through the north and west concrete block walls in room two (basement mechanical room). Further investigation is required to determine the condition of the floor structure at the steel decking in rooms five, six and eight (all three in the basement).

In the report it is noted, “the basement level contains mechanical and storage rooms. According to users, there is a history of water infiltration. The entire lower level is damp.”

There were also mechanical recommendations made by J.L. Richards.

The overall estimated cost of the repairs amounts to $703,000, but with current supply problems and materials this could increase the cost to over $1 million.

“The next step is to look at what we deem are the necessary repairs and look at getting them done and other alternatives and costs options,” said Mayor Ham. “We have a lot of options.”

“Personally, the current location suits the community because it is on the front street,” said Mayor Ham. “We have looked at a few different sites, one downtown and property we own, but none of them would be as good as the location we already have. I think we should be doing repairs, especially the more serious ones, but not all at once.”

Council, at its March 15 meeting, discussed the condition of the building at 115 Arthur Street and options other than repair of the existing building. Staff was instructed to advise the tenants of the situation and the option that council is considering. Staff is also to investigate up-to-date costing of the alternatives to the existing building.

Kim Cooper, branch manager for the Bank of Montreal told The Expositor, “This is all in the preliminary stage. We need to  see the options being looked at by council and we were just contacted by the township.”

Despite several attempts, The Expositor was unable to contact a representative of Canada Post Corporation for comment prior to this week’s press deadline.