The fate of the Mindemoya Old School is once again on the Central Manitoulin council’s docket, and the cries of “guillotine” are ringing out across the court, but not from the gallery. The cheerleaders on this effort are quite plainly evident and are proceeding with what seems to be an unseemly haste.
The decision to demolish the historic Mindemoya Old School building is understandable, from a municipal council and staff perspective. It is a lot of work and expense to maintain a near-century old building, let alone to upgrade it. Without a shining white knight riding to the rescue with saddlebags laden with gold, prolonging the agony of the stately old stone edifice could be deemed cruel and unnecessary. After all, many longs hours of debate have been spent in making the decision.
So then, the decision well and truly set in the minds of those oh-so-cautious burghers in control of the public purse strings, the standard foils for dealing with the inevitable fallout were set in action, a public meeting complete with the proper and due wringing of hands and, of course, the listing in great flourish of the insurmountable costs of upgrading the building to soon-to-be implemented provincial accessibility standards, and then, of course, the invocation of that greatest of bugaboos, asbestos, is thrown in for good measure.
Mayor Richard Stephens is to be commended for leading the push back on the rush to send the Mindemoya Old School to stand before the wrecking ball—and Councillor Linda Farquhar for her support in his efforts. Mayor Stephens quite rightly pointed out that there is little financial reason to be in such a hurry. The cost, while not totally insignificant, is hardly onerous when it is considered that this is not some ramshackle old wooden building facing demolition. This is one of the few remaining historical buildings in the community, indeed, it rivals many across the entire North.
It may be understandable why some council members might be long tired of this debate. There certainly comes a time to move on, but on the other hand, sometimes it may actually be time to get off the pot, at least for a while so that a proper job can be done to seek other solutions.
The question is rightly asked, and to this paper’s mind at least not adequately answered, as to what efforts have been made to find a gallant white knight.
What options, other than expanded parking for the arena, have actually been considered to stay the historic building’s execution—where it will join the old bank and the creamery as faded memories in old museum photographs.
To too many people in the community it appears that the decision to do away with the Mindemoya Old School building has been rushed forward as a fait accompli, with little no serious or concerted effort made to find another solution. Those efforts should be reviewed at committee, along with some serious soul searching as to why this rush to the simple and easy solution would appear to an outside observer as having really been the only one ever seriously entertained by this council.
With such a solid and historic building to use as a base, some effort and thinking outside the box could find a solution that does not involve a rush to swing the wrecking ball.