Central council invites discussion on future of Sandfield Ward halls

CENTRAL MANITOULIN – A preliminary meeting was held on Monday to discuss the fate of the community halls in Sandfield and Big Lake, along with the possibility of the two community organizations leasing the halls amalgamating and holding all of their events at the Sandfield Hall, which is the newer facility.

There was some confusion expressed late in the meeting when Councillor Dale Scott noted that he had thought the meeting’s primary purpose was to discuss a proposed joining of forces. That was not the understanding of the Big Lake Women’s Institute, while the Sandfield Merrymaker representatives had discussed the issue amongst themselves and were amendable to the idea of the Big Lake group joining and holding their events at the Sandfield location.

Mayor Richard Stephens was chairing the meeting and sought input as to whether both locations were in use and whether there was sufficient interest and legacy planning to ensure that both would be kept up in the future.

Mayor Stephens shared the information that neither hall costs the taxpayers a significant amount of money, as most costs associated with both the halls were covered by their respective lessees. “In the case of the Sandfield hall the cost to the municipality was $168 in 2019 and $290 in 2020, while the Big Lake Old Schoolhouse cost $345 in 2019 and $145 this year,” he said. “Insurance is really the big cost to the municipality with $4,700 in 2019 and $5,300 in 2020.” 

Both organizations pointed out that their halls are usually used extensively throughout the year and expressed an interest in keeping them in place.

The challenge with the Big Lake facility was that the building had sustained ice damage to the roof and chimney, leading to significant water damage and mold issues. Facilities manager Patricia Mahr pointed out that the Big Lake building will “definitely” need an air quality assessment done due to the presence of mold.

There was discussion as to who is responsible for the repair and remediation of the Big Lake building, with some question as to whether it should be covered by insurance.

Maintenance supervisor George Strain suggested the cost of repairs could top $50,000, considering the need to open up the ceiling and deal with the mold and water damage issues, but was not able to give a firm answer until a more detailed inspection was conducted by a contractor. Tulloch Engineering had done a preliminary walkthrough of the property and suggested an engineer’s report would run to around $7,300.

Councillor Scott suggested that if the cost of repairs to the municipality does tally in at $50,000-plus, the idea of having only one hall for the two groups would be the more sensible course of action.

In the end, it was the consensus that the two halls are used sufficiently and the costs to the municipality small enough to justify keeping both, but that the costs of repairing the building and who should pay for those repairs should be determined. The issue was to be discussed at Tuesday’s (December 8) property meeting and another meeting held between the municipality and the two user groups when further information became available.