M’CHIGEENG – While it is no longer interested in leasing the Old School building in Mindemoya as part of its planned expansion of programs, a representative of the Weengushk Film Institute (WFI) says they are still willing to talk other locations with the municipality of Central Manitoulin or building space in other municipalities on Manitoulin Island.
“Yes, they have sent us a letter that will have to go to our property committee, but it is not encouraging,” Richard Stephens, mayor of Central Manitoulin told the Recorder this past Monday.
Nano Debassige, senior manager of WFI, based in M’Chigeeng, confirmed that the group is no longer interested in using space at the Old School in Mindemoya. He explained, “while we were completing our proposal, we had the chance to look at the municipality’s report ‘Old Mindemoya School Repurposing Final Feasibility Study,’ from September 23, 2019. Based on the findings in there, we wouldn’t be financially justified in pursuing that.”
“It would cost $1.155 million estimated to bring the building up to code. There was a cost of $20,000 (general conditions) on top of that, and the costs of having contamination (asbestos and mold) removed from the building over and above that,” Mr. Debassige told the Recorder. “The report also speaks about not being able to sever it because it’s so close arena, in talking about the fire code. And the report indicates that we would only be able to lease the building.”
“So we would be looking at a cost of basically $1.155 million and the decontamination removal costs above that, before we could even start looking at making changes to the building that we would want to consider. It just doesn’t work for us,” said Mr. Debassige. “While we sympathize with Central Manitoulin and those that don’t want to see the Old School building close, looking at the costs involved and not owning the building, there is no way we could justify that.”
However, he pointed out “we are definitely open to working with the municipality on possibly other building options but we can’t see this being an option for us, even though the building is a beautiful piece of history.”
“Yes, we would also consider working with other communities on the Island (who have offices or property space that allow for WFI to expand its space and programs and for projects it is planning),” said Mr. Debassige. Weengushk has a partnership with Brock University and Laurentian University education programs.
As was previously reported, Weengushk had expressed interest in the Old School building, with Mayor Stephens having noted that WFI currently only has room for 10 to 13 students, but gets applications for up to 40-50 students each semester.