Prince Edward County’s Newspaper of Record
May 19, 2024
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News
March 11, 2024
Volume 194 No. 11

Wellington Town Hall

Committee of the Whole voted Feb. 29 to establish a working group to seek Expressions of Interest preliminary to selling the building
<p>Wellington Town Hall (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)</p>
Wellington Town Hall (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

If County Council is serious about divesting itself of buildings and land, first on the chopping block could be the Wellington Town Hall.

Built in 1882 as the village schoolhouse, the building became the Town Hall in the early 1900’s. It has hosted Cub Scouts, pancake breakfasts, weddings, baby showers, community meetings, pilates classes, dances, and various live performances over decades of community use.

The Committee of the Whole voted Feb. 29 to establish a working group to seek Expressions of Interest from community members or private groups who might be willing to renovate the heritage building while respecting its importance to the community. Designated through the Ontario Heritage Act as a significant landmark, the building’s exterior facade cannot be altered. 

The sale price in such a case would be less important than the building’s fate.

A similar process guided the successful sale of the former convenience store at the corner of Main and Wharf Streets. Community consultation kept the structure from being razed. It is now home to the  Sprigwich sandwich shop.

But the sheer length of the COTW discussion of the Hall, which went to three rounds of comments, questions and objections from Councillors, and included three deputations from residents, suggests the difficulty of the decision ahead. And with an important building condition assessment still underway, the goal of which is to create an Asset Management Plan for the County’s heritage buildings, the decision to seek Expressions of Interest seems premature. 

The Plan is to help the municipality balance competing considerations as it tries to decide which buildings to keep, and which might be sold off. It will rank buildings according to location, use, importance, heritage, accessibility, potential revenue, and costs, among other considerations.

The three deputants established the high value of a large, centrally located heritage building in the middle of a village celebrated for its beautiful old architecture and charm, one Council designated a Heritage Conservation District in 2022.

In her address to Council, Wellington Community Association President Joanna Green said that in the group’s 2023 What Wellington Needs survey, residents supported reclaiming the Town Hall as an important community gathering space. Suggested uses included a children’s teaching garden, a youth activity space, a community arts centre, exercise classes, and perhaps even a children’s daycare. 

All three deputants noted that as Wellington grows, a community-use heritage space in the centre of the village that many can simply walk to will become more and more important. 

“It is critical that there be proper, authentic, legitimate and sincere public consultations before any decisions are made about the town hall,” Ms. Green concluded. “We need a town hall about the town hall.”

The building, while it needs work, is far from being derelict. It has been used for the past few years as municipal office space both while Shire Hall was under renovation and after. 

Lisa Lindsay, Director of Recreational and Community Facilities, noted that the County tries to use its own buildings for office space whenever possible. “Given our expansive portfolio, we are working towards reducing our use of the Edward Building as well. The renewal lease for the Edward is for $61,429.20 annually, $5,119.10 monthly.”

“The space at Wellington Town Hall was used as the Clerk’s office (4 staff) and key election headquarters,” she said. After the Shire Hall renovations were completed, Operations staff, usually 2 to 4 at a time, used the building. “The two staffers working on the Rogers installation were there most often, and it was drop-in space for Operations staff working with them or used as meeting space,” said Ms. Lindsay. 

Operations staff are now going to the Ameliasburgh Town Hall, where they will share that building with community groups.

Safety concerns have kept the second level of the building closed to the public for over 20 years. The Roth IAMS study suggests the hall requires an investment of $700,000 over the next decade, including $60,000 immediately to make the entrances and washrooms accessible. 

Perhaps an investment worth making.

This text is from the Volume 194 No. 11 edition of The Picton Gazette
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