Discussion continues on possible uses for Old School building

Central Manitoulin Old School.

MINDEMOYA—Members of the Mindemoya Old Schoolhouse Repurposing Committee (MOSRC) met earlier this month in council chambers with Sam Bondi filling in for Chairperson Ted Williamson.

The previous monthly meeting of the committee had seen assignments given to each member to talk to different people to see how different projects were done and to see what funding would perhaps be available.

Linda Farquhar reported that she had talked with a representative of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario (ACO). The ACO was incorporated in 1933 and seeks to help communities preserve buildings of architectural merit and places of natural beauty and design. She said that the next step for the committee to take regarding this organization would be for members to request an intervention to protect. This gives the ACO the authority to represent the committee concerning the Old School house. “They will just support us,” Ms. Farquhar commented. “I don’t think there is any funding.”

Jan McQuay noted that the ACO has saved 80 buildings in their years of conservancy.

Councillor Farquhar also sought to speak to MPP Mike Mantha. Although she was not able to speak with him directly, she was informed that he will be holding a constituents’ clinic in Mindemoya on December 19 from 1 to 2 pm in council chambers.

Ms. McQuay was the next MOSRC to report back and she began by noting that the Canada Cultural Spaces Program could be approached for funding and that several buildings under this program have been repurposed. She also talked with the person responsible for the revamping of the wharf building in Gore Bay and was told that perhaps the committee could qualify for a Heritage grant and perhaps could get the Trillium foundation involved. It was suggested that more help could be realized if MOSRC could offer something for seniors that was not available on the rest of the Island.

Ms. McQuay had also contacted a group called Rural 60 Plus of Kakabeka Falls. Organized in 1982 by a group of 10 seniors, this organization successfully purchased a school in 1987 and renovated and expanded the building over the years. The Rural 60 Plus webpage spells out the mandate to support the independence of older adults, enhance their dignity and self-respect and to promote their participation in all aspects of community life. Activities include carving, weaving, quilting, choir singing, cribbage, yoga and watercolours. Quilts and woodworking pieces such as deacon benches and rocking chairs are raffled off for fundraising while pot luck suppers and renting out the group’s space also raised funds.

Ms. McQuay informed the committee that the Ontario government has put out a call for proposals for 2017-18 to expand the current network of seniors’ active living centres and the programs they offer. It was noted that there are now over two million seniors in Ontario and the number is expected to double in the next 25 years. In 2013 the Ontario government set out an Action Plan for seniors and, this year, established a Ministry of Seniors Affairs. The 2017 Ontario Budget has led to the opportunity for the government to expand up to 40 new centres. The deadline for applications is December 17, but will still be accepted after that time. There are currently seniors’ active living centres in Gore Bay and Espanola.

Rethink Green, Greater Sudbury’s environmental network is another organization that Ms. McQuay contacted and she informed the members that Richard Eberhardt, Green Economy North program manager would be coming to Central Manitoulin’s council property meeting to provide information. She also spoke of Net Zero Building wherein a structure produces as much energy as it uses. Ongoing construction advances, renewable energy and research has made net zero buildings more feasible and, as Ms. McQuay explained,  if the old school house qualified to be net zero, the costs of retrofitting would be met. Valleyview public school in Greater Sudbury is an example of a net zero building.

Committee member Hal Love reported on his talks with Mike Addison, the executive director of LAMBAC, to see about assistance for MOSRC. LAMBAC provides funds for small businesses and social enterprises. He was informed that one idea that might be feasible is the business incubating, that is, mentoring, for new start-ups. Other sources of financial assistance could be Northern Development and Mines (NDM), the Trillium Foundation, FedNor and the Northern Ontario Heritage Foundation Corporation (NOHFC). NOHFC recently announced the increasing of funding available for community capacity building to 75 percent.

Member Alex Baran remarked, however, that the 12 programs available under NOHFC do not really cover what the committee wants and said, “Trillium is probably a really good source for funding,” adding that a seniors activity centre would be good for longevity.

“We could tap other activity centres for ideas,” Ms. McQuay suggested, while Mr. Love remarked that “there is no place for older people to congregate. I think there is a dire need.”

Further conversation included a discussion around funding for a seniors centre and which agency, which ministry, would provide funds for such a venture. Ms. McQuay observed that there is money from cap and trade in Ontario that is being used for renewable projects while Joanne Smith explained that there is some funding available from Manitoulin Transport.

“Perhaps Manitoulin Transport funds could be used to hire someone to tell the committee what is needed,” Mr. Love suggested, while Mr. Bondi said that perhaps an architect could be hired to design the building to suit the purpose.

“The first thing you have to do is decide what the building will be used for,” Mayor Richard Stephens said.

Councillor Farquhar noted that it seemed that the committee had come to the conclusion that “we have to do something for seniors and adding culture” and Mr. Bondi said, “I think we are in that ballpark of thinking of something for seniors.” Mr. Love suggested that the building have something for seniors as well as something for everyone.

“It could become a community centre rather than just a senior’s centre,” Councillor Baran added.

Mayor Stephens also suggested that the committee get an idea from local residents as to what they want people what they want and Mr. Bondi suggested a questionnaire be implemented.

In summary, it was decided that the questionnaire gathers pure statistical information, that people are asked what they would like to see besides what they already have at other centres, and that a meeting be held to invite people such as the Sparrows Nest group and then a questionnaire could evolve from that discussion.

The next MOSRC meeting will be January 9.