/MH debates budget money for cultural centre repairs

MH debates budget money for cultural centre repairs

By James Matthews, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Minden Hills Cultural Centre needs work from top to bottom.

Even as budget talks progress, an effort is afoot to tender work on some of the municipality’s cultural assets.

Council continued discussions March 7 about capital work priorities to be addressed in the 2023 municipal budget. Work on a number of facets of the Minden Hills Cultural Centre weighed heavily in the debate.

Some of those projects have been ongoing issues over years and led to what can be described as a debate about the importance of various cultural centre assets.

Coin has been put aside to stabilize and reconstruct the foundation of the Bailey Barn at the heritage village. In addition, some of the structural logs have deteriorated and the building’s foundation is shifting off its pillars. A proper foundation is required to support the building, protect the asset, and ensure public safety. 

There’s $30,000 in a cultural centre reserve fund that’s been earmarked for engineering and construction.

“It’s been in the budget for a number of years now,” said Greg Bedard, finance director.

Craig Belfry, the township’s community services director, said the barn was closed at least the last two years, since he’s been in his position.

“We’re not giving access right now,” he said.

Councillor Pam Sayne said the lack of a municipal advisory committee hamstrings council in being able to determine the importance of such work and the necessity of the property. Perhaps such a committee would have been able to offer more options for repairs, she said.

“An advisory committee would let us know in terms of the education and preservation value of that building,” she said. “Either way, we’re going to have to spend money if we’re going to either repair it or take it down.”

Sayne suggested the item remain in the budget for 2023 and an advisory committee be put together to look into the issue. As the money is sitting in reserves, it isn’t a taxation issue that would affect the levy for ratepayers.

“Like all projects, once we get bids and so on, it will be coming back to council,” said Mayor Bob Carter. “If there is an advisory committee in place, then they could make a recommendation to council.”

Coun. Tammy McKelvey questioned the wisdom of spending $30,000 to put a foundation beneath a rotting log barn, even if the money is in reserves.

“The equipment that’s in there is rusted so bad that it’s not display-worthy,” she said. “I really want to make sure that we don’t have any more deterioration on some of those other really important buildings at that museum.”

Again, said Carter, the counsel of an advisory committee would be beneficial.

“It’s always difficult when we’re talking about any of these things, whether it be cultural things or sports things,” Carter said. “What somebody considers a priceless antique, somebody else considers a needless extravagance.”

The cultural centre roof has been leaking for a number of years. It’s proposed that $32,000 be taken from reserve funds to repair the main steel roof, install a heated cable system to melt ice, and repair damage to the facia and soffits. The leaking has also damaged the building’s interior.

Coun. Ivan Ingram said $38,000 was spent on the same roof in 2019. And now they have to write another cheque for it just four years later. He said he’d rather see $30,000 spent on the cultural centre’s roof as opposed to the barn’s foundation.

“So you’re not dealing with this (roof) issue year after year after year,” he said. “Hundreds of thousand have been spent on that building, on that roof, over the years.”

Sayne reiterated that council will have to put something in the 2023 municipal purse to either demolish the barn or repair its foundation.

“I agree with you, Coun. Sayne,” Ingram said. “I just don’t know that it needs to be done this year. Let’s get that roof fixed and finished and done. Or are we going to spend another $50,000 in another four years to fix it again?”

Belfry said there are two sections of the roof on which ice builds, causing damage to the interior ceilings.

“It’s been a long-standing issue,” Belfry said. “(Over) two decades, I understand.”

Sayne said she’s aware of a contractor that constructs gables over roof valleys instead of using the heating cables to deal with ice buildup. That would be more cost-effective over time.

“Hydro is going nowhere but up,” she said. “I think we need to leave it in the budget, but I think we need to be open to maybe coming back and saying this is a redesign of putting another metal piece over that metal roof so it (water) comes down differently.”

McKelvey said municipal equipment is better suited to road work as opposed to tearing ice off the side of a building and damaging its facia and soffits in the process.

“We today need to say get that roof fixed,” McKelvey said. “It’s just going to rot the building down soon and we’ll be dealing with another mould issue.”

Belfry said any work would be done in the spring.

McKelvey said repairs to the library’s roof has been in the township’s budget for at least the last three years. Given that, she asked why it has yet to be repaired.

“It’s been a long-standing issue,” Belfry said. “From me talking to staff, it’s been going on for 18 years or so.”

“It’s been going a long time,” McKelvey said. “And, … as Coun. Ingram mentioned, we already put a lot of money into this roof and here we are doing it again. We just need to make sure we’re going to do it correctly.”