EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is an open letter to Central Manitoulin Council. It has been reprinted at the author’s request.
To Central Manitoulin council members:
After reading the information in the Manitoulin Recorder (September 27, 2019) regarding the hazardous waste report for the Mindemoya Old School, it seems like the writing is on the wall.
It is clear from the comments made by most members on council that they have already have their minds made up that this last remaining historic structure is not worth saving. This comes as no surprise because right from the start, the majority of councillors have made it perfectly clear that they wanted it demolished.
I want to address a few of the comments that were made at the last meeting. 1) Councillor Dale Scott stated that the building “has been here since the 1940s.” In fact, the school opened in 1921. It will soon be 100 years old! 2) Councillor Angela Johnston says of the Repurposing Committee, “they have had almost two years to figure this all out.” In fact, the committee has had two years but has been at the mercy of engineers, funding groups and consultant reports. These things move very slowly in most cases which most certainly happened here.
3) Councillor Johnston also states, “my generation doesn’t see the value of the building, and we are the ones that will be paying taxes for the next 50 years. I’m sure the majority of taxpayers in the municipality don’t see the value of keeping the building. I absolutely don’t want to give an extension.”
Wow, where to start with this one! I know that there are many people in her generation who do see the value in history and historic structures. Does Councillor Johnston not realize that people the world over travel to places like France, England, Italy, etc, purposely to see historic buildings that have been saved? It’s not likely these countries would have the same draw if everything historic was gone. Secondly, how can she be so sure what the majority of the taxpayers think? I know many taxpayers who would like to see something useful be developed in the school. The one questionnaire that was sent out didn’t reach the majority of taxpayers and was just a start. Much more could be done in this area now that more information has become available.
4) Councillor Al Tribinevicius states, “I understand there is funding to put a new roof on the building, and the hazardous materials taken out, the bulk of the building could be left.” He also said that if these things were dealt with, the building could be used to draw more people to the area. How true! Roof it, remediate the parts that are essential and leave it until a purpose can be found. How much could it possibly cost each taxpayer? The township wouldn’t be responsible for much of the cost, as money has already been promised which would go a long way to help with the roof. Fundraisers could also bring in more funds.
People don’t look for time capsules or cornerstones saved from old buildings when they visit. They look for history. The old school, with a plaque out front and eventually some interesting venues inside, would be our contribution to Manitoulin history!