Final agreement reached on transfer of Big Lake School

CENTRAL MANITOULIN—The Municipality of Central Manitoulin and the Big Lake Community Association have reached a final, signed agreement to transfer ownership of the Big Lake School and property to the association. As had been previously reported, Central Manitoulin council declared the Big Lake School property as surplus in March and municipal staff had been instructed to enter into negotiations with BLCA for its purchase.

“What was approved was to everyone’s satisfaction,” stated Richard Stephens, mayor of Central Manitoulin after the transfer was officially signed last Friday. “We are endorsing what they (BLCA) are doing, and hoping that this (transfer) will be beneficial to the community.”

“It was a long haul getting to this point, but when both sides have good faith and it’s a project that will be beneficial to both sides and to the community, you have to make these kind of decisions,” said Mayor Stephens. He said, “I would like to congratulate the negotiating staff and the proponents for coming up with something that was agreeable and doable.”

Mayor Stephens noted the municipality had originally received a report from the BLCA, “that they wanted to take over ownership of the building and noted that they had spent $100,000 in renovations on the building in the last few years. And, as you know, we had received a property assessment report on the building, carried out by Hal Love, that showed the building was worth $100,000 on the market.  It was at this point we went back to the association and said, you have looked after the building all these years, and we suggested going with a 50/50 cost split so they could buy the building at half of the valued cost of $50,000. But (BLCA) pointed out they had already spent $100,000 in renovations on the building in the past few years.”

“The negotiations were amenable and agreeable, and I wish the group the best and they make the best of the building and enjoy it,” continued Mayor Stephens. He noted as well that one of the concerns related to the building was an identified mould problem in a section of the roof. “There hasn’t been any definitive answer on the amount of actual mould there is. Some believe that the amount of mould actually in the building was overblown and I think is the case as well.”

He explained that, as part of the transfer, “if there is remedial work to be done on the building they (BLCA) are responsible for this.”

The Big Lake School has not been operational as a community space since November 2018 when it was closed due to the damage caused by ice and snow damage, and later as a result of mould damage.

Over the years, the BLCA with its major fundraising and government grants have been able to make a large addition to the existing building, and with the addition of the kitchen, they also built wheelchair- friendly bathrooms, wheel-chair friendly ramps, and a large deck. They also had a field bed installed, as well as playground equipment, had a water treatment system installed, and built an exterior storage shed.