‘Sad to see it go down’

Com­mu­nity dreams of a youth cen­tre at for­mer St. Agnes School go up in smoke

Cape Breton Post - - Front Page - BY NIKKI SUL­LI­VAN

The for­mer St. Agnes School in New Water­ford is gone and so are the dreams of many res­i­dents that a youth cen­tre would be put in that lo­ca­tion.

The build­ing was de­stroyed by a fire on Sun­day that took fire­fight­ers al­most 10 hours to ex­tin­guish.

Some res­i­dents were hope­ful the lo­cal land­mark would be home to a new youth cen­tre.

Paul Wil­ton is one of those res­i­dents. An oper­a­tions man­ager for the Cape Bre­ton-Vic­to­ria Re­gional School Board, the fa­ther of seven was part of the crew that cleaned out the school af­ter it closed, and he saw the po­ten­tial in it.

“It was a beau­ti­ful gym. It would have been a good spot for a youth cen­tre,” he says. “Sad to see it go down. It’s heart­break­ing.

“Folks in New Water­ford are look­ing for­ward to get­ting some­thing for the youth to keep them out of the drugs and the trou­ble.

“They have to be given some­thing to do.”

Over the years Wil­ton has been very ac­tive in help­ing raise money

for things like play­grounds in the area.

Usu­ally he works with other com­mu­nity mem­bers on these dif­fer­ent ini­tia­tives and says he does reg­u­larly visit the bas­ket­ball courts and play­grounds to make sure they aren’t be­ing van­dal­ized or beaten up.

“I’m all for that drive to make things change,” ex­plains Wil­ton. He gets a lit­tle som­bre as he con­tin­ues.

“Just like the ef­fort to stop all the drug is­sues. The level of drugs out there is scary. One time they try it and you could be los­ing a

kid.” How­ever, the idea to turn the for­mer St. Agnes School into a youth cen­tre seemed to be a com­mu­nity-driven one and not one that had any gov­ern­ment in­volve­ment.

Kendra Coombes, re­gional coun­cil­lor for District 11, says she was never told there was any in­ter­est in turn­ing the for­mer school into a youth cen­tre. While she is sup­port­ive of the ini­tia­tive to get a youth cen­tre in New Water­ford, she thinks the lo­ca­tion of the for­mer school isn’t ideal.

“In my opin­ion, it was far away from the schools and once they’re home (the stu­dents), you’re not go­ing to get them back.

“It was prob­a­bly hope­ful, wish­ful think­ing on their part (com­mu­nity mem­bers),” she says.

How­ever, Wil­ton is hope­ful that the fire at the for­mer St. Agnes School will in­spire peo­ple to re­ally con­sider the need for a youth cen­tre in the area, re­gard­less of the lo­ca­tion.

“Not one per­son can do it. It’s gotta be the whole com­mu­nity, gotta be the par­ents get­ting in­volved,” he says.

Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Po­lice are con­firm­ing the fire at St. Agnes School is sus­pi­cious since there was no power source in the build­ing and it was va­cant.

An in­ves­ti­ga­tion is be­ing done by the fire mar­shal’s of­fice, Foren­sic Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion Unit as well as the ar­son unit with the Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Po­lice Ser­vices. More in­for­ma­tion will be re­leased af­ter the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

NIKKI SUL­LI­VAN/CAPE BRE­TON POST

Graf­fiti can be seen on the wall left stand­ing af­ter the dev­as­tat­ing fire at the for­mer St. Agnes School.

NIKKI SUL­LI­VAN/CAPE BRE­TON POST

All that re­mains is de­bris af­ter a fire de­stroyed half of the for­mer St. Agnes School in New Water­ford. Crews are busy clean­ing up and es­ti­mate they will fin­ish to­day.

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