Friends of Mindemoya Old School reach first milestone

The Mindemoya Old School.
The Mindemoya Old School.

MINDEMOYA—Friends of the Mindemoya Old School (FOMOS) have been successful in reaching the first milestone of their lease with the municipality of Central Manitoulin, with the support of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario (ACO) and the Douglas A. Smith Family Foundation. The lease had stipulated that FOMOS obtain $50,000 for the building renewal project within four months.

“We wish to acknowledge the role of ACO in making this possible,” said Jan McQuay, FOMOS president, in a release. ACO, a charity dedicated to the conservation and reuse of historical structures of architectural merit, has taken on the essential project of repairing and re-shingling the roof to protect the building, through an agreement with FOMOS. The Douglas A. Smith Family Foundation generously donated $50,000 to the roofing project. “We are very grateful,” Ms. McQuay said. “This donation alone fulfills the requirement of the lease to raise $50,000 within four months.”

Jeff Smith, vice-chair of the Manitoulin Group of Companies told The Expositor, “There are so few historical buildings of this size and stature on the Island. We thought it essential to do what we could to keep it standing. It’s been important in the community for over 100 years, and it would be great to see it around for at least a hundred more.”

Alison McAllister, FOMOS treasurer and Ms. McQuay met with members of the Central Manitoulin property committee-committee of the whole last week. She told the meeting, “we met with Patricia Mader (municipal coordinator) last week and I’m assuming all of you received copies of the items. Included in the email is the note that $50,000 has been donated by the Douglas A. Smith Family Foundation which was part of the lease that we had to confirm within four months.” “There is also a construction plan by Belanger Salach that indicates the construction process and time frames,” said Ms. McAllister. “Additionally, we wanted to update the committee that we have made applications (for funding) to both the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation and FedNor,” said Ms. McAllister. “There are requirements that we had to accomplish, for both to consider our applications.”

Ms. McAllister noted FOMOS has also applied for funding through the Green Municipal Fund. “We completed an energy audit of the building (which is a requirement of the grant applications) to indicate how much better the building will be energy wise.”
“Also, recently we received an award from the Ontario Historical Society for efforts in saving the Old School Building from demolition,” continued Ms. McAllister. “We are very proud of this.” Ms. McAllister pointed out the National Trust of Canada has provided a launchpad coaching grant to FOMOS. “They pair us with experts in business for support in writing a business plan.”

FOMOS has had another silent auction and held a vendors’ market as well a birthday party celebration for FOMOS with entertainment this summer. “We also hired a grant writer for the organization. We look forward to a good working relationship with the municipality,” said Ms. McAllister. “I would like to thank you very much for this update,” said Councillor Dale Scott, chair of the committee. Ms. Mader told the meeting that the municipality is still working on insurance requirements on the building.” “I would like to thank you for the construction plans and completion date plan,” said Councillor Steve Shaffer. “Construction on the building seems to be heavy on work taking place on the lower level of the building, and I’m just wondering if there are any plans for the upper level of the building?” Ms. McAllister explained, “the main level of the building is in excellent condition. We are not looking at major renovations for the upper level of the building.” “Being that there are a lot of hazardous materials in the building, it appears in the plan that the group has no plans to address this,” said Councillor Derek Stephens. However, Ms. McAllister noted, “it is in the plan, it is one of the first items listed in the plan indicating that we will have the hazardous materials cleared, by removing or containing them. Our plan is for removal of the hazardous materials. We feel that is the best route for the building. But realistically, there is not that much hazardous materials in the building.”

Councillor Shaffer put forward a motion to accept the FOMOS construction plan, and to have it sent to the municipalities legal counsel for review. The committee unanimously supported the motion. “FOMOS has, in fact, exceeded the fundraising requirements, with the help of the FOMOS membership, new donors and repeat donors,” said Ms. McQuay. “We would also like to thank all these people for their overwhelming support all along this journey, but especially in response to our fundraising campaign in the months since signing the lease.”
“We have been extremely busy,” said Ms. McQuay. “Another milestone specified in the lease was to develop a construction plan within the same four months. So, in addition to meeting our fundraising requirement, FOMOS has developed a construction plan.” She explained FOMOS has been meeting with an architectural and engineering firm to formulate renovation plans with emphasis on energy efficiency, costs, and renovation time frames, along with Ontario Building Code requirements. “Accessibility is also a priority of the new design.”
Ms. McAllister told The Expositor after the meeting, “the dates are not finalized for the construction. They are a guide, with some decisions still to be made.” However, “We’re looking to open the building to the public within 48 months of the lease having been signed as of the end of June. Our hope is that we will be able to open to the public earlier than that and I suspect we will be able to accomplish this.”
Ms. McAllister also noted, “the Smith Family Foundation’s very kind donation. They are very supportive of the entire Island through the foundation.”

Ms. McQuay said that in FOMOS receiving the Heritage Conservation Award from the Ontario Historical Society, “this award from a province-wide organization shows that our progress in saving this historic structure is being recognized. “The dedication and hard work of many volunteers and the financial support of many more who want to see the Old School find new life, has not gone unnoticed both locally and at the level of province-wide organizations.”