Old School committee agrees part of focus will be on seniors’ centre

Central Manitoulin Old School.

Mindemoya—The January 9 meeting of the Mindemoya Old School House Repurposing Committee (MOSHRC), held in council chambers, began with consultation follow-ups. The December meeting had seen various members agree to contact individuals and organizations for information on funding and programs that would be available if the school would be repurposed. These included Mike Mantha, MPP for Algoma-Manitoulin, Carol Hughes, MP for Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing, the Older Adults Centres of Ontario, FedNor, the Trillium Foundation, LAMBAC, the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund and others.

Councillor Linda Farquhar spoke of her meeting with Mike Mantha at his constituents’ clinic in Mindemoya on December 19 and noted that Mr. Mantha’s very first question was, “What are you going to do with the building?” He asked that Councillor Farquhar let him know the answer as soon as possible and he would approach the different ministries for funding. He also asked that he receive a letter from council stating that approval of this committee as being in charge of what to do with the building has been given.

Councillor Farquhar then went on to say that Ms. Hughes had asked the very same question about the eventual use for the building. Once she knows what the Old School house will be used for, she will approach the government librarian about what grants are available.

“Yes,” Ted Williamson said in response “We have to have it laid out about what the building is for. Our goals laid out. It looks like we are looking at seniors.”

Mr. Williamson went on to talk about the YMCA and the older adult centre named Parkside in Sudbury and the many courses that are offered and that people are travelling to take part in classes. Classes offered at these locations include dance lessons, gentle yoga, swimming, cycling, Zumba, computers, arts and crafts, falls prevention and many more.

Mr. Williamson also brought the committee back to the accessibility issue. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act of 2005 ensures accessibility standards for everyone in this province with physical or mental disabilities to all public buildings by 2025. Mr. Williamson remarked that he really likes the idea of a ramp along the outside of the building and Mayor Richard Stephens added that a similar thing was done in Providence Bay and that it has worked satisfactorily.

Hal Love agreed with this idea and thought that this would get the lower level of the building going and then they could forget about the rest for now. When Sam Bondi asked if the ramp could go up to the main floor, Mr. Love explained that it could, indeed, if the area at the back of the building was backfilled.

The committee was also told that the seniors group in Providence Bay has 61 members and that there are usually 40 to 45 members at each meeting. These seniors could be asked what could be supplied to these members in Mindemoya at the Old School. Ms. Farquhar explained that she is a member of the Mindemoya seniors group, which at present has 14 members who meet once a month. She said that there is a meeting next week and she will ask for recommendations for the building.

Committee participants also spoke of the need for something for the seniors in Mindemoya to do. Mr. Bondi, who observed that he is hearing the phrase ‘better living centre’ being used quite a bit, also asked whether there would be a drawback if the old school house is a seniors’ centre only. “Is there a downside to labelling it a senior’s centre only?” he asked, and said that maybe the committee should broaden their funding opportunities.

Mr. Love asked the group if perhaps some of the students at Sudbury’s School of Architecture could maybe take on options for the building as an assignment, as an elementary project. He added that someone has to come in to tell them what can be done and mentioned the successful repurposing of the farmers market in Sudbury to the CP/VIARail building.

Councillor Alex Baran countered this saying, “We have to have a purpose. That drives it. When we start we have to have a specific idea of what we want. We have to be more specific. We can’t rush it, but we can’t be slow either.”

It was apparent at the meeting that the members were leaning towards a senior’s centre, but with Mr. Williamson saying that that is a large part of it, but “the seniors’ centre is not taking over the whole school.”

“We need to formulate a motion that we are going to initiate, that we are going to start with the lower floor for seniors,” Mr. Bondi suggested. When Mayor Stephens asked if this would be just for seniors or an activity centre, Mr. Williamson made the suggestion that they start with Phase One that would be for seniors. “I like Sam’s idea,” Mr. Love said, and suggested that they go with a better living centre, phase one – seniors.

Councillor Baran agreed, saying, “the focus has to be on seniors.” He asked “Where are we going to focus in the next three or four months? The ongoing direction of the committee should be on activities for seniors, their needs and their well being.” Other members agreed with the proposal with Mr. Bondi saying, “I think all the seniors would like it. Logically, it seems to be the direction to go. They want a place to go to and things to do. There has got to be a place where there are things to do. To play cards, shoot pool, knit or quilt.”

“I completely agree,” said Councillor Baran. “Walk in, all kinds of things to do. It is programming and contact that will bring people in.”

“The summer seniors are also looking for something to do,” said Mr. Williamson with Councillor Farquhar saying, “look how much Pat Costigan has done for our community and she is a summer resident.”

Several more comments were made ranging from asking people in the community to donate towards different things, like perhaps pay for a pool table, the need to get a questionnaire out to see what seniors want and the need to get people from the agencies such as LAMBAC, Fed Nor and so on out to the next meeting to see if there is funding for seniors programs. Councillor Baran also mentioned that there is a tremendous resource at the committee’s fingertips, this being the Ministry of Seniors Affairs. “Jan (McQuay) has done a tremendous amount of work,” he said and added that the people who work for the Ministry would be invaluable aiding the committee. Mr. Bondi remarked that he has a contact who may be able to help out architecturally wise although she is not a bona fide architect and Mr. Love will contact her to see if she has any ideas for the building.

A motion was put forth by Councillor Farquhar and carried to proceed with the repurposing of the Old School Building with a focus on the needs and wants of seniors.

The next MOSHRC meeting, which is open to the public, will be held in Central Manitoulin council chambers on January 30 at 10 am.