Writing about native politics in a small neighborhood can dicey, given everyone knows one another, making it tough to criticize choices by these we have now elected, however that’s additionally the explanation we have now to write down about it. Few individuals attend council frequently and even fewer go to committee conferences.
For the previous few weeks, I’ve been following a bunch of native individuals eager about buying the previous United Church in Billings Township. The township bought it two years in the past and it’s the oldest constructing right here, at 139 years outdated.
Volunteers constructed a stage and made a couple of renovations, hoping it could possibly be utilized by native musicians and rented out as a venue. Though a couple of occasions have been held, it primarily simply sat with little being accomplished by the township to enhance the constructing or have any plan for the way forward for it. And earlier than you say, effectively, Covid occurred, it sat for a full 12 months earlier than the virus hit.
A presentation was made to council; they weren’t trying to buy it outright, but when council was , the group would do an in-depth survey to see if there was sufficient curiosity in the neighborhood to tackle such an endeavor.
Sadly, council wouldn’t even think about it and turned it down flat. It was disappointing; what hurt would it not have accomplished to look into it additional? If there was little interest in the neighborhood, then wonderful, don’t promote it. I even wrote a letter to council, recommending they check out it as a result of this constructing has such potential and could possibly be changed into a vibrant neighborhood hub as an alternative of simply sitting there. Everyone knows what occurs to outdated buildings when upkeep will not be accomplished.
So, why did they flip down the provide? Mayor Ian Anderson stated “the township is the only proprietor of the Previous Church on the Hill property, inclusive. The duty, in frequent with all municipal choices and actions, is to think about the best good to the best quantity, or alternatively, the least hurt to the smallest quantity and this should be utilized to the municipality as a complete.”
So one way or the other it was determined that this may trigger some sort of hurt to have it seemed into additional? This reveals a definite lack of imaginative and prescient from the mayor and council.
Nevertheless, did the choice to show it down shock me? No. Within the final two years, we have now seen this neighborhood go from being probably the most lively on the Island to being one of many least lively. When two teams of volunteers resigned en masse, we have been informed repeatedly by council that it might be Okay, that they might come again. Effectively, it hasn’t occurred but.
As a matter of truth, when the township put out a name for volunteers to affix varied committees, three utilized. So as an alternative of claiming that all the things shall be wonderful, perhaps they need to be asking why solely three individuals need to volunteer?
However I used to be stunned when, at a Christmas market right here on the town every week in the past, I noticed an indication by the financial improvement committee of council searching for donations for the Previous Church. Coun. Sharon Alkenbrack, the committee chair, informed the native press that the “Billings Financial Improvement Committee (EDC) is trying to make the Previous Church on the Hill our fundraising mission for the subsequent 12 months … the marketing campaign is geared towards restoring, enhancing and preserving the constructing.”
So simply to be clear, the EDC is taking the imaginative and prescient from the group of residents who have been keen to fundraise, renovate, apply for grants, pay for repairs and upkeep, all with out being a burden on the taxpayer and making it their very own.
Like I stated, no imaginative and prescient or creativeness, simply different individuals’s concepts.
Ruth Farquhar is a contract author primarily based on Manitoulin Island.