CENTRAL MANITOULIN – Friends of the Mindemoya Old School (FOMOS) got a boost from an unexpected quarter, as members of Central Manitoulin council held a special meeting to hear a presentation from the group on a funding proposal. Following the meeting and presentation, council voted unanimously to provide a letter in support of the $750,000 funding application. The special meeting was required since the council is on hiatus for the month of July and the deadline for application was the following day.
FOMOS member Alison McAllister took council through a synopsis of the application to the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario. She informed council that FOMOS had received phase I approval to move ahead to the second phase.
Ms. McAllister noted that phase II involves a more detailed formula and that the funding is aimed at a revitalization and beautification of the downtown core.
The proposed arts centre project would create a possible 13 local jobs during construction and a further full-time and one part-time job once the project was completed. Ms. McAllister said that the project was similar to a successful project built at the Gore Bay Harbour Centre.
Ms. McAllister said the project has already garnered letters of support from Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Mike Mantha and the Manitoulin Fine Arts Association.
Councillor Angela Johnston expressed concern that issuing the letter of support might lock council into a corner on the project, a concern echoed by Councillors Dale Scott, Steve Shaffer and Rose Diebolt.
Ms. McAllister assured council that the letter would not lock council into ongoing long term financial support and that council could back out of the project whether funding was approved or not.
In response to the anticipated timeline, the funding approval would take place before the end of August and the entire project is anticipated to take a maximum of three years—FOMOS expects the project to be largely complete within nine months.
Councillor Derek Stephens has been among the most vocal of critics of previous FOMOS proposals and requests, but threw his full support behind providing a letter of support for the funding proposal. “This is the only proposal I could offer my support,” he said, noting the proposal contained sound planning and provided a well thought out plan to preserve the Old School building. “I support the proposal, not the building,” he laughed, going on to add that the proposal would greatly benefit the community.
Council members continued to grill Ms. McAllister on any potential long-term burden for the municipality, with Councillor Diebolt at one point asking what assurances could be offered. Ms. McAllister replied that she could only offer her word. She did offer the hope that council would see fit to contribute the $150,000 it has set aside for demolition, but remained adamant that FOMOS intended to take the building off the hands of the municipality.
There were 235 members of FOMOS at the time of the meeting, with more coming on board as time goes on, noted Ms. McAllister in reply to a comment by Councillor Tribinevicius. Councillor Tribinevicius and Mayor Richard Stephens provided comment on the historical significance of the building and its solid construction. Councillor Tribinevicius pointed out the building has stood for 100 years and would likely still be standing 100 years from now if the FOMOS project succeeds in preserving the structure.