MINDEMOYA—Despite several concerns being raised, the Central Manitoulin finance and economic development committee has passed a motion recommending Central Manitoulin council extend the mandate of the committee looking into the repurposing the Old School for an additional year.
“Thank you for allowing us the time to discuss with you the progress that the committee has made to date on the possibility of repurposing the Old School to meet the needs of the township and Island community as a whole,” said Ted Williamson, chair of the Mindemoya Old School Repurposing Committee (MOSRC) at a meeting last week. “The committee took the direction, as phase one, to create a seniors’ centre to meet the present and future demographics of our aging population within the township with approximately 850 seniors on record.”
“At present there is a request for funding through FedNor for $50,000 to do a feasibility study on the repurposing which would cover all aspects of use to make the building financially viable,” said Mr. Williamson. “Attached is the summary of the work done by the committee which I believe you will find quite extensive and I want to recognize Nancy (Kinoshameg), the economic development officer, for putting this all together and for doing the extensive application for FedNor funding. I also want to thank the members of the committee for their dedication to this project and the many community members for the input and support for this project.”
Mr. Williamson explained, “the funding request takes approximately 80 days to process and this exceeds the committees’ present mandate to do the discovery work. There is more work to do so the project can be successful. This committee is asking that the finance and property committee make a recommendation to council to extend our mandate for another year.”
Numerous meetings and motions have been made, said Mr. Williamson who pointed out an application for funding to FedNor had been forwarded about a month ago.
“We are asking for the one-year extension to see if FedNor will come through with funding and, if we get this funding, a study will be carried out,” said Mr. Williamson. He pointed out, “a lot of people have asked me how things are going, and some have said there is nothing for them to do in the winter. I’m sure this building would be well used by seniors,” he said, noting one phase of the study would be to look at ideas to make the building financially viable.”
“All we are asking is one more year on our mandate,” said Mr. Williamson who noted, “it is not costing the municipality anything per se.”
Councillor Alex Baran, chair of the FED committee, noted an email dated September 20 had been received from Lynn Quesnel (of the Architectural Conservancy) who indicated her support for the work and the request of the committee for an extension. “What I would like to ask is that in the process of September to October of last year (2017) what has the committee learned in your work?”
“The bureaucratic process is slow,” said Mr. Williamson. “We have learned that there is a strong need among seniors for an area where they can keep active with events and activities. They want something here that brings the community together instead of just sitting in their homes in the winter with nothing to do.”
“In the funding you have applied it seems this is for a feasibility study the needs of seniors,” said Councillor Derek Stephens. “It has nothing to do with the Old School site. A building could be constructed brand new that would be cheaper than retrofitting this building,” he said, noting that a feasibility study for seniors’ needs Island-wide had been attempted years ago, but regardless this study wouldn’t help with the Old School location.
“Part of the feasibility study would answer what uses could be looked at for the Old School,” said Mr. Williamson.
Councillor Baran said all this would have to be drafted if funding is provided.
Councillor Dale Scott told the committee, “many people have come to me or contacted me on this issue. The main thing they ask is what is it going to cost the taxpayers if the (Old School) building is refurbished. They are not against something for seniors, a drop in centre or something else, but they question what the costs will be to the taxpayer to have work done on the Old School. They want to know what the tax burden will be; obviously it will be up to them for the costs of refurbishing the building.”
“I would encourage the next council to set time landmarks on what is expected from the committee if the present council agrees to extent the mandate for another year,” said Councillor Scott. He said this should include specific time lines which hasn’t been the case over the past year.
If the MOSRC committee mandate is extended it would run to November 30, 2019, said Councillor Baran.
“What was the mandate of the (MOSRC) committee?”asked Councillor Pat McDonald.
Councillor Baran explained, “to find uses, repurposing for the Old School that would make it financially sustainable on its own.”
Ms. Kinoshameg said the application for funding to FedNor allowed for terms of reference objectives- feasibility study for repurposing the use of the Old School building to allow it to financially sustain itself.
“But it is not specifically looking at seniors,” said Councillor Stephens. “The study has nothing to do with seniors programming.”
“It might be,” said Councillor Baran.
“The committee is hoping for $50,000 in funding for someone else say the building could be repurposed to be financially viable,” said Councillor Stephens. “We need to go one way or the other, whether this is for the Old School or for seniors.”
Councillor Linda Farquhar said there is a need for an area for seniors to use. “The Mindemoya Seniors Group has had to pay for any accommodations they have. They came to council asking if the public school would be available and were told it would cost $8,000, which they turned down flat. There is an interest among people to refurbish the Old School. We should allow for more time for the committee to do its work and see if they get the funding they applied for.”
Councillor McDonald noted there is a senior centre in Providence Bay that seniors pay for themselves. “I know many people who are not in support of putting more money into the building (Old School).”
Councillor Scott said the municipality has been faced with new added expenses with the building, noting insurance has gone way up, and provincial hazardous material testing required on buildings like the Old School could be very expensive.
“Another year of studying this building, I can’t see it being up to snuff, it has been vacant for awhile now,” said Councillor Scott. “It will be difficult to get the building back in shape. There are definitely concerns with all the costs involved.”
Councillor Baran chair of the committee brought forward a motion to consider the MOSRC committee request for an extension of its mandate for one year. The motion was seconded by Councillor Farquhar.
Councillor McDonald requested a recorded vote on the motion.
Councillors Alex Baran, Dale Scott and Linda Farquhar voted in favour of the motion to recommend to council to extend the mandate for the MOSRC committee for a year, with Councillor McDonald voting in opposition. Councillors Derek Stephens and Ted Taylor, who both attended the meeting, could not vote as they are not members of the committee. Council will vote on the recommendation at its next regular meeting.