Committee members upset with decision concerning Mississagi Lighthouse

MELDRUM BAY—Due to a funding shortage with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), the Mississagi Lighthouse will have another tarp—a more sturdy commercial canvas type than the one currently on the roof of the building—put on in the near future opposed to repairing the roof, leaving the members of the Manitoulin Lighthouse Committee (MLC) and the Dawson Citizens’ Improvement Association (DCIA) concerned.

“Warren Ford of the DFO said they had been given two estimates from the contractors and they are going to the lower estimate, tarping the roof, not repairing it,” Rick Nelson, co-chair of the MLC, told the Recorder on Tuesday. “I haven’t talked to any of the members of the (DCIA), but Richard Bradley had received an email from the DFO outlining their position. I was told (by DFO) that the tarp canvas is six percent of the cost a new roof would be. To undertake a band aid solution until someone wants to buy the lighthouse might mean there won’t be a property or building left to negotiate for.”

“I would prefer the roof be fixed, but the tarp is better than nothing,” said Mr. Nelson.

Mr. Ford, in an email to Mr. Bradley wrote, “the local contractor (Sheppard and Son Construction Ltd.) provided me with two cost estimates—tarp replacement and a complete roof repair. Due to a funding shortage on our end, a decision has been made to go with a tarp replacement (which will cost $4,000). The tarp replacement will be a more sturdy commercial canvas type tarp material and will also include patching the roof leak around the light. I don’t have a time frame for completion of the work, but I’ll be in contact with the contractor and will get him to complete the work as soon as possible.”

“Isn’t that wonderful,” Dale VanEvery of DCIA sarcastically told The Recorder. “It certainly doesn’t surprise me and it certainly isn’t the answer. It’s terrible to let this building fall down, we (DCIA) can’t take it over and spend that kind of money on the lighthouse. We just don’t have the funds needed.”

Richard Bradley told the Recorder, “I understand they don’t have the budget to repair the roof entirely and are providing funding to put on a better quality tarp.”

The tarp, “will do the winter and they are proposing this tarp will be sturdier than the last one,” said Mr. Bradley. “Ideally, the roof would be repaired, and we hope this will be the case at some point, but I’m pleased they are doing something.”

Mr. Bradley explained there has been shingles missing on the building (which has been the case for some time) the roof decking needs to be replaced, as there has been some leaking through the roof and the windows and siding need to be repaired.

Mr. Nelson shared a letter Ms. Hughes had received from Keith Ashfield, the minister of Fisheries and Oceans, dated August 28, 2012. “Funding to maintain real property assets is limited and must be prioritized according to operational needs,” wrote Mr. Ashfield. “Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) Real Property officials completed an inspection of the lighthouse last year to determine if the condition of the structure adequately supported operational requirements for an active aid to navigation. While some temporary repairs were made at that time, it was determined that no major interventions are required to ensure ongoing service delivery to mariners and, as such, there are no plans in place to undertake further work on site this year. Although it is difficult to justify investments in buildings that have been identified as surplus, the situation will continue to be monitored to determine if further repairs are required pending the divestiture of the property.”

“As you may be aware, DFO officials have been engaged in discussions with local stakeholders regarding this site which could result in a transfer of ownership through the divestiture provisions of the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act,” wrote Mr. Ashfield. “As part of this process, the Department engaged a local contractor to complete an assessment of all buildings on the site to provide cost estimates for proposed renovations. It should be noted that the recommended improvements were primarily focussed on enhancing the tourism potential of the site rather than maintaining DFO’s operational capacity. Most suggested repairs were for buildings other than the lighthouse which serve no operational purpose for the department.”

“DFO maintains a small budget to facilitate the transfer of surplus lighthouse properties to qualified proponents,” said Mr. Ashfield. “The Department could be in a position to provide some funding to subsidize proposed renovations as a condition of transfer but it is expected that such funding would be directed towards preserving the heritage character of the lighthouse as opposed to other buildings on the site.”

Mr. Nelson replied to Mr. Ashfield’s letter, stating “the problem is by the time they get around to selling-transferring the lighthouse, there won’t be a building to sell. It’s obvious a tarp is all they want to spend money on until negotiations on the selling of the building takes place. We’re saying that by the time the negotiations for transferring-selling the building are done, there won’t be a building. Putting a tarp on it is better than nothing but the roof needs to be fixed.”

The DCIA wants to obtain ownership of the Mississagi Lighthouse to continue to operate it as a local historical site and vital tourist attraction.

Tom Sasvari