Letter: Some thoughts on the decision to withhold Old School extension

The real costs to taxpayers are associated with demolishing the historic building

To the Expositor:

The citizens action group FOMOS (Friends of Mindemoya Old School) has worked very hard to become incorporated. This support group is now well over 200 strong, all of whom have paid $10 to join the cause of saving the old Mindemoya school from demolition. A business plan involving a financial report of necessary repairs was to be presented to Central Manitoulin council. The deadline was set for September. Using COVID restrictions as their reasoning, council has not allowed anyone into the building to assess the necessary expenses. They did, however, allow a person into the Big Lake school to assess the damages there! The property committee, in their meeting of May 11, unanimously granted an eight-week extension of this deadline, and announced the granting of permission to have one person enter the building to do this assessment. FOMOS breathed a sigh of relief. 

Their hopes were soon dashed in the council meeting two days later. Councillors Shaffer, Diebolt, Scott and Stevens, the very same people who had unanimously supported the motion two days before in the property committee meeting, now all voted against it, defeating the motion to extend the deadline! My first question seems to be, ‘what in the world is the use of having a property committee meeting if they are going to defeat their own motion in council?’

At the council meeting, Councillor Scott stated that it would cost more than two million dollars to fix the building. What did that have to do with council? The idea being presented by FOMOS was to take that expenditure out of the hands of council! The business plan requested by council was to show how, if the building were put into the hands of FOMOS corporation, it would become a financially sustainable asset to the community. One strong possibility of this being considered is a seniors’ residence. By incorporating as a non-profit organization, FOMOS has applied for charitable status, which will allow them to issue charitable tax receipts for donations. Already donors have been lined up for this support. Historical and cultural grant monies are accessible. Fundraising has begun. However, arbitrary time restrictions levied by council, and the determined mindset of a few of its members to get rid of the building have become key factors in negotiations.

Here are the facts:

To destroy this historical building will cost taxpayers around $150,000, according to the report to council made by Tulloch Engineering in 2017. (This money has already been set aside through the council budgeting. What would it be now?)

To sell the building to FOMOS for $1, the building would be repurposed to become a community asset at no expense to taxpayers.

Yearly taxes on the building would become revenue for council.

The history and heritage of the Old School, still so important to many in the community, would be preserved.

The building would remain as a tourism attraction, helping to bring tourist dollars into the area.

I wonder how many taxpayers would be willing to pay $10 to join a group bent on demolition of the Old School? More than 200 have paid to join FOMOS to try to save it. Is council really representing its constituents? Why is council being so determined to defeat the FOMOS efforts? I just don’t understand! 

Jim Smith