Central council turns down eight-week extension for Friends of the Old School

Central Manitoulin Old School.

CENTRAL MANITOULIN – A committee of local residents seeking to save the historic Mindemoya Old School building sought an eight-week extension to the deadline set by council for the committee to come up with a viable alternative to the demolition of the building.

The Friends of the Mindemoya Old School (FOMOS) had approached council through the Central Manitoulin property committee requesting the extension due to the impact of restrictions from the pandemic lockdown orders that prevented them from touring the building with contractors to assess what work on the building was needed.

The recommendation to grant the extension was sent forward to council from the May 11 property committee meeting and was moved at council by Councillor Al Tribinevicius and seconded by Councillor Angela Johnston, but ran into a frosty reception at the table.

“I think it is too early offer an extension,” said Councillor Steve Shaffer, who pointed out that the deadline is still several months off from the early part of May. “There should be lots of time, if there isn’t we can offer one later.”

Councillor Derek Stephens agreed with Councillor Shaffer. “It is too early to get an extension,” he said. He suggested that if it gets closer to September and FOMOS needs more time, council can consider the request then.

Councillor Dale Scott also agreed that the request is coming too soon. “If we give an extension now, what will be asked for in September or November?” he asked.

Councillor Tribinevicius disagreed, suggesting the extension should be given now, as the opportunity to assess the building over the past eight weeks has been lost due to no fault of the committee. He pointed out that FOMOS has made considerable progress in the area of fundraising, but without a defined target it was challenging. “Why not encourage the group?” he asked. “Why get rid of that building so quickly?” Councillor Tribinevicius indicated he would like a recorded vote on the motion.

“I tend to disagree with Al,” said Councillor Scott, pointing out that the process has actually been underway since October 2017. “By the time the eight weeks have passed, it will be four years.”

“Sometimes a good marriage takes time to develop,” countered Councillor Tribinevicius. “We don’t have to close down a huge group of people.” 

Councillor Scott suggested that the cost of dealing with the building could cost two-and-a-half million dollars.

Mayor Richard Stephens noted that the actual dollar figure has not been determined and that many people have spoken to the possibility of repurposing the building.

Councillor Shaffer reiterated his objection that it is too soon to be offering an extension.

The recorded vote saw Councillors Johnston, Tribinevicius and Mayor Stephens voting in favour, with Councillors Stephens, Scott, Rose Diebolt and Shaffer voting against to defeat the motion.