Cobourg Council – Fire Fighters Museum Move to Arena Is Not Without Snags

In City Hall

(Today’s Northumberland file photo)

By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
Though progress is being made on the Canadian Fire Fighters Museum setting up at the old Cobourg Memorial Arena, Councillor Lucas Cleveland of council’s Community Protection and Economic Development standing committee expressed his wish at this month’s meeting to find an alternative site.

“My concern is that we are sending a group of individuals down a path that isn’t necessarily going to lead to a good place. We need to have an honest conversation with them about alternative options so we can look at other possible uses for the Memorial Arena,” Cleveland urged, referring to “a new potential development recently, which may provide a better option for a local firehall museum.”

Homeless for several years now, the museum began working toward securing the Cobourg location more than a year ago. The work has been going smoothly, Director of Community Services Brian Geerts said, referring to “very, very effective discussions between the parties.

“We have come a long way, so I don’t want my staff report at the mid-point of our time to insinuate anything has soured or is not working effectively,” he added.

At the same time, he continued, “we are at a point where a lot of the practical things have been figured out, at least at a basic level. They have been very diligent bringing in specialists, getting advice, figuring out the options of that building.”

Geerts likened the old arena – built in 1950, closed since 2011 – to a barn. With its massive roof and walls, and a floor that’s half-dirt, it will be difficult and expensive to convert to any other use.

The adjacent (and much younger) Jack Heenan Arena is working well, bringing in $20,000 in revenue a year, he pointed out, but costing the town about $50,000 a year in maintenance.

Cleveland referred to a Feb. 2 letter from the Fire Fighters Museum stating that, in order for the project to proceed, the town has to be prepared to assume as much as $1-million in costs, noting that he would rather spend that money in other ways.

Cleveland also repeated his reference to “looking at other arrangements based on very recent information we have received.”

It’s a big price tag, Councillor Adam Bureau agreed, but the town supports museums (like the Sifton-Cook Heritage Centre and the Canadian Women In Film Museum) as an important part of its Cultural Master Plan.

Geerts set out several scenarios where the town could recoup some or most of the $1-million through lease arrangements that rise naturally for inflation over the 20-year term being anticipated. But even allowing for that, he forecasts more than an additional $800,000 required for upkeep and maintenance over that time.

A motion was put forward for a staff report based on a more thorough investigation of potential upkeep and maintenance costs over the next 20 years applying to what Geerts termed the building’s envelope – roof, walls, foundation and common areas such as parking and landscaping.

Cecilia Nasmith
Author: Cecilia Nasmith

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