Council agrees underground storage tank at Old School site needs to be investigated before any further plans can go forward

Mindemoya Old School

MINDEMOYA – Before Central Manitoulin council can look at doing anything in terms future plans for the Old School building, and regardless of whether they will sell, lease or rent the building to the Friends of the Mindemoya Old School committee or have the building demolished, council has agreed with a recommendation from its property committee to investigate the potential underground storage tank at the Old School site. 

“We need to investigate this, search and go through this process. It is the only way and means we will find out if something is there,” said Mayor Richard Stephens at a council meeting last week. 

While he indicated his concerns that the municipality at this point does not have any costs for this work, Councillor Derek Stephens said, “we have to start someplace. If a storage tank is found, we will have to deal with it.” He said if municipal staff find out the costs will be astronomical for this work to be carried it will need to come back to council before work is carried out.
“I agree with Derek. This first step needs to be taken on this whole thing,” said Councillor Steve Shaffer. “I understand there is a meter in the building that suggests that there might be a storage tank underground near the building. First step—find out. I would suggest that all our department heads have a limit on how much they are authorized to spend on things like this. If in this case it is below the authorized limit they should be able to carry out the work.” 

This recommendation came after a long discussion was carried out at the March 9 Central Manitoulin property committee meeting regarding getting a costing on hiring a company to demolish the building, if negotiations with the Friends of the Mindemoya Old School or with any other proposal for use of the school does not work out.

“There is a potential storage tank that needs to be investigated and removed before anything can be looked at,” said Chair Dale Scott. 

George Strain, municipal building maintenance supervisor, said his conclusions on the tank are the same as Tulloch Engineers. “When I checked a meter in the building I got a reading and it appears there is a storage tank. I think it may be on the west side outside the building and that it wouldn’t be too deep in the ground.

Kim Neale, climate change co-ordinator for the municipality said (in her previous work), “I’ve dealt with so many of these underground storage tanks. The last thing we need to do is dig and end up with a leak (of what is in the tank). It could be something that would contaminate the soil. She said proper testing needs to be carried out before digging or removal of the tank takes place. 

Municipal co-ordinator Patricia Mader said that before anything else is considered for the future of the building, dealing with this potential storage tank needs to be the first priority.

Mr. Strain said, “this is definitely not the original tank sitting out there now. It isn’t the original storage tank.”

Councillor Stephens said that with mould and contaminants having been outlined in the building, he would like to have any public groups visiting the building stopped. “I can see a contractor going in, but not members of the general public.”

Councillor Angela Johnston said, “at our last (committee) meeting we agreed to give time to the Friends of the Old School to work their plans out and that the municipality would enter into discussions with them on the building. My feeling is that first we need to investigate and find out about the storage tank. 

“I agree that we need to investigate the storage tank. No matter what we do with the building in the future, this needs to be taken care of,” said Councillor Shaffer. “However, in looking at negotiating with the Friends of the Mindemoya Old School group, the September deadline for a final decision needs to kept.”

“I agree the storage tank is the number one concern right now,” said Mayor Stephens. 

“Are we making a motion on all of this?” questioned Councillor Rose Diebolt. She suggested that first it needs to be determined and investigated whether there is a storage tank underground near the building and how it can be removed, as well as the costs involved. 

The committee passed a motion to recommend to council to have staff proceed with investigation of the underground storage tank.

Councillor Shaffer asked where the municipality is in terms of negotiations with the Friends of the Old School.

The committee was told preliminary discussions may have taken place, but no plan or decision has come forth from the group thus far on possible leasing, renting or purchasing the building, or finding another party to do so.  

“While there may not have been a formal request made yet, as council we need to know where things are heading on this by the September deadline,” said Councillor Shaffer. 

“I hope this is being conveyed to the group that we need something in place by early September,” said Chair Scott.  

At their meeting last week, council passed a motion to have staff to proceed with investigations of the potential underground storage tank at the Mindemoya Old School site.