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Council wants to see proposals for former Picton Town Hall

Picton Town Hall, 2 Ross St., Picton

County residents filled the gallery at Shire Hall Tuesday night to implore council to keep the Picton Town Hall as a community asset.

In the end, councillors approved a motion to be sent to council  to list the former fire hall at 2 Ross St., for potential sale and receive requests for alternative proposals and options for future uses.

Citizens representing more than a dozen community groups who use the hall (Tai Chi, Karate, Bridge Clubs, Pipes and Drums, Horticultural Society, Agricultural Society, dancing and creative groups) explained the hall is a perfect location, is accessible and affordable. Some groups noted they would have to fold if forced out.

“The hall belongs to the people of the County,” said Christine Renaud, representing the Food Not Bombs community group and the Save the Town Hall group. “As more and more of our community spaces are being lost, where is a no-cost and low-cost community building going to happen? This is about community empowerment, not only about having these enriching activitites continue.”

Renaud asked council to explore options that did not involve selling the hall or forming a public/private partnership.

“We need time to build proposals around innovative ideas to do that. If private sector wants to use the space, there is no reason why we as a community can’t continue to own the town hall and lease it to the private sector becoming the landlord, rather the private sector becoming the landlord of the people.”

Rosalind Adams gave an impassioned talk about community and inclusivity.

“We don’t have that anymore. There’s vast inequality in the County and the people who hold the balance of social and economic power do not value inclusivity,” she said. “The wealthy elite have all the wealth, all the land, all the housing, all the ownership and control of the assets of the community and the rest of us, the invisible, excluded majority, end up with nothing.”

Councillor Lenny Epstein, who hosted the first town hall meeting in July, is hopeful a proposal will be found that will benefit the community, especially proposals for a Farmers’ Market to be located on its lower floor. He also spoke of a successful partnership involving Queen’s University and user groups of a municipally-owned space.

“We should put out an RFP for the fire hall portion and keep the upstairs for community,” Epstein suggested. “I feel the leadership we can take here would allow us to bring these public/private parties together to discuss the vision. We need the give the community a chance to do this in a sustainable way before we sell the building.”

Mayor Robert Quaiff spoke of the County’s multi-million dollar infrastructure problems (roads, water etc) and debt and said he would like to see options that might arise from private/public partnership.

“I know this is going to be a struggle for the community,” he said, thanking the groups for their deputations. “We are way too far in debt in this municipality and continue to keep borrowing. Our senior population at 63 per cent is the highest in Ontario and we can’t continue to keep rising on the debt (ours and previous council’s)… We have to look at options out there. We don’t have to accept them, but we have to see what they are. I have been approached by several developers who said they are willing to work with us. Let’s see what they bring forward.”

Councillor Jamie Forrester said he doesn’t want to ask his constituents to pay the tax hike that would be passed along with keeping the hall.

“The last term of council we fought to keep the rural town halls open because there was a master plan to shut them down. We saw the importance of those halls and built it into the budget to keep them up… There was a cost for that.”

Quaiff said that as chairman of the Eastern Ontario Warden’s Caucus he witnesses the balancing act the County faces is the same municipalities throughout eastern Ontario are staring down.

He said innovative solutions will be key to fixing infrastructure and hopes council will take a good look at the ‘Local Share’ proposal from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario which proposes a one per cent increase to the HST be used to pay for critical services like roads, bridges and transit.

A presentation on Local Share was cancelled last week due to a lack of quorum at the committee of the whole meeting. Quaiff hopes the presentation can be set up again soon.

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  1. Dennis Fox says:

    Thanks to you too Giles. This particular issue has gotten under my skin. The other writer – Gary makes some good points about “The Ameliasburgh 3” and the electoral imbalance. I attended the OMB hearings on this back in July – I’m not hopeful that the people will be well served, despite paying for it again. I truly hope that I am wrong and the right thing happens.

    So if Council hopes to dump our historic Town Hall onto a developer – what was all the upset about over a simple sign owned by “The Beach Bum”? It appears Council cares more about the historical messaging of our business sector, than they do about preserving our history? Where is the Historic Advisory Committee on this issue?

  2. Gary says:

    Wouldn’t it be even better if Councillors were elected by the whole electorate and representative were making these decisions. I don’t expect this is a huge issue for Amelaisburgh residents but they will have 3 votes on this matter. Picton will have 2. And Athol looking to scoop up the $$ will have 1. Hope and pray the OMB brings us electoral reform.

  3. gilles says:

    Thank you Dennis. You’ve underlined their inability to see the big picture.

  4. Dennis Fox says:

    I don’t pretend to understand Council’s thinking on anything they do – their logic fails me. Can anyone explain why the bought a convenience store in Wellington for an amount of around $600K – but now want to sell one of our historic buildings because they claim to be short of money?

  5. Gary says:

    I didn’t get to vote for or against the Athol Councillor tourist businessman who wants to sell our Town Hall to another tourist businessman. How fair is that representation?

  6. Mark says:

    Right on. I want to have the Democratic right to vote for every Councillor sitting at that horse shoe affecting my life and my wallet!!!!!

  7. Susan says:

    I sure hope that the OMB restructures ward’s so that we finally achieve voter equity. That decision is imminent. We need Councillors that represent everyone in the County not just there small territory. Athol councillor wants to sell Picton’s Town Hall to gain $$ for his ward benefits. Ironically they have no investment historically in Picton’s Town Hall. The broader electorate needs to elect all Councillors especially since their votes effect us all not just their piece of the pie!

  8. Marnie says:

    I think Benson Hall was donated with strings attached. Otherwise it would be gone by now.

  9. Gary says:

    Why isn’t Benson Hall up for sale as well?

  10. Marnie says:

    Once again it seems that council is preparing to ignore the voice of the people. Wonderful to see the Royal under restoration but enough is enough. Do we need to sell our town hall and its history to Mr. Sorbara? Could he demolish it for additional parking? Where is he planning to park all of the cars belonging to his hotel patrons?

  11. Dennis Fox says:

    The fact that Council is even considering the sale of this historic hall is unbelievable. I don’t believe any Council has the right to sell any public property without full public involvement and approval. This hall is owned by the people of PEC and other than those residents in Picton, the majority of residents outside of the town haven’t had any opportunity to express our displeasure in this matter.

  12. Paul Cole says:

    I put my money on Mr.Sorbara scoring the trifecta the Royal Hotel, 6 Ross St and more then likely 2 Ross St as well. I still wonder why options for the Old Town Hall were not discussed and decided when the new Firewall was approved, most home owners would have a plan in place when building a new home as to what their plans were for the old home so they didn’t have to carry the costs of the old home after moving into the new one. Interesting ain’t it ?

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