ST. ANDREWS WEST, Ontario – The Township of South Stormont invited residents to an information session at the fire hall in St. Andrews West on Wednesday, April 17 to discuss the future of the Raisin Region Centre.
Located next to the St. Andrew’s Catholic School, the Raisin Region Heritage Centre, itself is a former school that was built in 1908.
Currently owned by the Township of South Stormont, Township Director of Parks and Recreation detailed the current status of the building and some of the challenges it is facing.
The township states that to stabilize the first floor of the building, nearly $600,000 of renovations are required.
While the Township owns the building itself, it does not own any of the land surrounding the building, which is owned by the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario (CDSBEO). The CDSBEO even owns the easement that allows access to the building, which is used by the Cornwall Township Historical Society and the Township at the school board’s discretion.
The Township explored the option of selling the building to the CDSBEO, but the school board has shown no interest in purchasing it. Alternatively, the CDSBEO has also declined to sell any of its property surrounding the Raisin Region Centre to the Township.
Being unable to sell the building, this leaves the township with the option of renovating the building or demolishing it. The estimated cost of demolishing the building is around $700,000 according to Amelotte.
To renovate the building, the Township would try to apply for grants from upper levels of government, but in order to do so, they require a business plan for the future of the building, which is why they held the info session on Wednesday to crowd source ideas.
“In my heart I’d love to see it saved,” said Jim Brownell at the meeting. “My concern here is about the artifacts. In that building is one of the most valuable collections of photographic negatives in all of SD&G.”
Other residents did not want to see taxpayers from the whole Township be burdened with the significant expense of restoring the Raisin Region Centre.
“We have to have some common sense for the taxpayers,” said Tammy Hart. “We need to demolish it and preserve the artifacts inside.”
Brownell pointed out that the Glengarry Fencibles Trust in South Glengarry was raising funds to renovate the over 200-year-old Bishop’s House in St. Raphael’s and turn it into a museum and that maybe there might be some guidance or support there.
“Museums don’t make money, they lose money,” responded Hart.
All of the suggestions made by the public at the meeting were recorded by the Township for it to help consider it’s options.
Mayor Bryan McGillis stated that nothing was going to happen any time soon.
“We don’t have the money to renovate it without a grant and we don’t have the money to tear it down in the next two years,” he said.