Time to get political with built heritage preservation

city_scope_logo-cmykThe city’s built heritage received a welcome ally this week with the establishment of an Elgin-St. Thomas chapter of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, with the aim of preserving buildings and structures of architectural merit and places of natural beauty and interest.
With the notable exception of Ald. Heather Jackson-Chapman, our elected representatives at all levels of government have done little more than talk the talk when confronted with heritage preservation.
Witness Alma College. Better yet, the two remaining orphaned structures on the Moore Street property.

ACO past president Catherine Nasmith and in-coming president Lloyd Alter were guest speakers Tuesday at the CASO station for the founding meeting of the 23rd local chapter of the organization conceived in 1933 to help preserve Ontario’s architecturally-significant landscapes and structures – not just of the 18th and 19th centuries – but also more modern examples as well.
The ACO attempts this through increasing public awareness, providing advice, supporting community involvement and seeking improved legislation.
Don Menard, heritage planner for the City of London, noted local chapters are often formed as the result of crisis situations.
“Some times you have to get political,” he stressed. “I see this as a major role for the ACO.”
Local branches are ultimately seen as a positive force, added Nasmith, who admitted efforts to preserve the Moore house near Sparta resulted in “the compromise from hell.”
With an eye to rehabilitation rather than demolition, Alter reminded the close to 50 in attendance that “the greenest brick is the one that’s already in the wall.”
My, how that applies to the Sutherland Press building.
At the founding meeting, Suzanne van Bommel was elected local president, with Dawn Doty serving as vice-president.

Former mayor Jeff Kohler has climbed back on to the political stage with the confirmation he will work for his uncle Frank Klees’ campaign to become the next leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party.
So, is this a warmup for another shot at the mayor’s seat in the 2010 municipal election?
If such is the case, would Mayor Cliff Barwick entertain a re-match 18 months from now?
If the wind and the water were to come together in such a fashion, who would you vote for next November?
Of course, with MPP Steve Peters’ long-term future at Queen’s Park a question mark, a step up to provincial politics under the Tory banner might be a more tantalizing trail for Kohler.

No doubt stung by Mayor Barwick’s harsh words earlier this month about being misled regarding application qualifications, MP Joe Preston has submitted a personal letter and details for Intake 2 of the Communities Components of the Building Canada funding program for consideration at Monday’s council meeting.
St. Thomas missed out on the first round with its application for a new police station and Barwick made it abundantly clear Preston and Peters had nurtured the impression it would be a walk down the garden path toward upper tier infrastructure dollars.
With a second chance to grasp the golden ring, St. Thomas can submit up to three applications for economic stimulus projects “which would not have been built over the next two construction seasons without the federal and provincial funding” according to the guidelines.
An additional $500 million is being made available to communities across Canada with a population of less than 100,000.
There are 18 project categories, with an apparent emphasis on undertakings related to safe drinking water, disaster mitigation, brownfield redevelopment and local roads and bridges.
So, once again, where would a new police headquarters fit into the picture? Perhaps under the vague category of “collaborative projects.”
It would appear this garden path could again lead directly toward disappointment.
If that is the case, the city should submit two additional projects: the rehabilitation of Wellington Street, which neatly fits into the roads category and reapply for funding to build a 929-square-metre (10,000-square-foot) hangar and ramp area to accommodate corporate jet traffic at St. Thomas Municipal Airport, under the local and regional airports banner of the Building Canada program.
Exactly one year ago the city missed out on funding through the province’s Municipal Infrastructure Investment Initiative for the $1.2 million airport terminal building upgrade.
In 2007, two studies of the airport were completed, including an economic report which noted the airport could generate $22 million a year and employ 110 people if additions, such as food services, charter services and cargo services were added.
Later that year, a second study – a corporate air terminal feasibility study – recommended a hangar facility for corporate jets and a conceptual site plan.
Barwick was equally miffed when the provincial funding parade bypassed St. Thomas on its 2008 tour.
“We are very perturbed that 250 cities get funding for everything from bridges to restoration of historic buildings and we apply for money to improve our airport, to help bring in industry to increase the tax base, and we get nothing,” harrumphed Barwick at the time.
Do you see a pattern here?

“The worst thing a community can do is erase itself.”
Catherine Nasmith, president of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, comments on efforts by Mayor Cliff Barwick, city council and staff to tear down the Sutherland Press building. Her observation was made Tuesday during a visit to the CASO station for the founding meeting of the Elgin-St. Thomas branch of the ACO.

City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be e-mailed to: mccallum@stthomastimesjournal.com


5 thoughts on “Time to get political with built heritage preservation


    While I strongly feel the three (3) S’s – streets, sewers and sidewalks should top the list, and regardless of how we got here, I look forward to some positive announcements on “anything” for St. Thomas now that MPP Steve Peters and MP Joe Preston are handholding the mayor through the steps to secure much needed infrastructure dollars for our city.


    Our council with laser-like precision repeatedly submits projects that fail to align with published priorities for funding.

    If you keep doing the same things over and over and over, you should expect the same result.


    Barwick has already declared his intention to run again. Look for a dark horse in 2010.

    Bill Sandison
    Advocate for a Better Municipal Government
    STR8TALK in St. Thomas

  2. Bill:
    Has the mayor indeed declared his intention to seek re-election. I get the sense not although a lot can happen between now and Nov. 2010. I think there could be more than one dark horse, and in fact there could be more reasonably legitimate mayoral candidates this time around than we’ve seen in recent elections.

  3. Ian,

    It was during a Rogers TV broadcast around year end with the mayor hosted by Andy Fleming. A couple of comments were made during the broadcast that astounded me;

    1. Andy Fleming stated words to the effect that we’re lucky to have Barwick as our mayor during these troubled times.

    2. Barwick commented words to the effect that if someone else had their eyes set on being the next mayor that he was up for the competition.


    Bill Sandison
    Advocate for a Better Municipal Government
    STR8TALK in St. Thomas

  4. Bill: Thanks for the confirmation. I can’t believe he actually said that … to be honest I think he’s bluffing. If he thinks he can pull in another 5,000 plus votes next time around he’s sadly mistaken … or people have very short memories.

  5. Ian.

    Rest assured; he was, to use an Alderman Campbell phrase, “dead nuts” serious. Guess he`s going for a three-peat.

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