Lo­cal en­gi­neer says as­bestos in AB El­lis build­ing not a prob­lem

The Mid-North Monitor - - Front Page - BY HE­LEN MOR­LEY

Lo­cal en­gi­neer Gary Clack­ett is not happy about what he calls mis­in­for­ma­tion about as­bestos in the for­mer AB El­lis School. He is adamant that as­bestos is not an is­sue and says there have been stud­ies that back him up.

“There are is­sues with peo­ple who don’t un­der­stand the haz­ards of as­bestos. The build­ing con­tains as­bestos, but any re­main­ing as­bestos will be re­moved.”

The only re­main­ing as­bestos that can’t cur­rently be re­moved is be­tween the walls.

Health Canada says there is no sig­nif­i­cant risk if ma­te­ri­als con­tain­ing as­bestos are “tightly bound in prod­ucts and are in good con­di­tion, sealed be­hind walls and floor­boards, iso­lated in an at­tic or left undis­turbed.”

It is only when small as­bestos fi­bres are re­leased into the air that they be­come dan­ger­ous. It can be safely re­moved by a qual­i­fied pro­fes­sional. Un­til then it is best left undis­turbed.

Clack­ett says he spoke with Lind­say Liske, the trustee for the Huron Su­pe­rior Catholic School Board, who con­firmed that there have been struc­tural, ar­chi­tec­tural and en­vi­ron­men­tal stud­ies done. The elec­tri­cal sys­tem and plumb­ing have been looked at as well as the heat­ing sys­tem. There was a prob­lem with mould around some of the heat­ing pipes, which would be an en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sue, but that has been cleaned up. Struc­turally, the build­ing is sound. It just needs to be brought up to code.

It is known that the heat­ing sys­tem was up­dated in 2001. A por­tion of the build­ing is heated by hot wa­ter, which is ther­mo­stat con­trolled, and forced air.

“The last re­port from 2014 showed no is­sue with the boil­ers.”

There is a ven­ti­la­tion sys­tem as well. The stud­ies show no ma­jor is­sues with the build­ing. Huron Su­pe­rior has had the build­ing in­spected and de­ter­mined that it is safe for the Sa­cred Heart stu­dents.

When it comes to the is­sue of park­ing the SABE has ad­dressed that as well. The Rain­bow Dis­trict School Board has been in­formed that there is an al­ter­na­tive plan for park­ing, which does not in­clude de­mol­ish­ing the build­ing. There will be plenty of park­ing avail­able for the Es­panola High School with the AB El­lis build­ing in­tact. This was brought to the at­ten­tion of Robert Cle­ment, the RDSB school trustee for this area. If the board can agree the park­ing is­sue is re­solved then the area can be re­zoned and the build­ing spared.

The SABE mem­bers are also stat­ing that the build­ing can be re­pur­posed with­out cost­ing the lo­cal tax­pay­ers a penny. They have looked at the process un­der­taken by the peo­ple that trans­formed a for­mer school into the Parry Sound Hub. More than 100 pages of in­for­ma­tion on the process has been given to SABE as a blue­print to fol­low.

The Parry Sound group re­de­vel­oped the build­ing and turned it into a profit mak­ing ven­ture. Part of what they did was part­ner with other or­ga­ni­za­tions, to as­sist them in the re­de­vel­op­ment. That is an av­enue SABE also needs to ex­plore.

The SABE group is look­ing at the avail­able re­sources open to them to se­cure a part­ner­ship and pro­tect the AB El­lis build­ing. It is known that the class­rooms are ideal for two bed­room rental units. There are 30 to 32 class­rooms that can be turned into apart­ments. The town sorely needs se­nior hous­ing. A mix­ture of low in­come units with some higher end units would go a long way to ful­fill­ing that need. Other com­mu­nity groups can be brought in as well to rent some of the larger units. The Parry Sound Hub proved that re­pur­pos­ing a well-con­structed older build­ing can be a vi­able, self-sus­tain­ing op­tion. No­body ben­e­fits from tear­ing th­ese build­ings down.

There are a num­ber of struc­tures in both North­ern and south­ern On­tario that have been re­pur­posed. How­ever, it seems that south­ern On­tario takes ad­van­tage of the op­por­tu­ni­ties much more of­ten than North­ern On­tario. That is some­thing the mem­bers of SABE also want to ad­dress. There are de­vel­op­ers liv­ing in the area. How­ever, un­til the build­ing is de­clared sur­plus noth­ing can be done with it. It can’t be re­pur­posed un­til it has been de­cided not to de­mol­ish it.

It has been men­tioned to the pre­vi­ous town coun­cil that by law there needs to be a registry of his­tor­i­cal build­ings. Prefer­ably there should also be a her­itage com­mit­tee to pro­tect th­ese older build­ings from be­ing de­stroyed. The Her­itage Act states, “The con­ser­va­tion of cul­tural her­itage prop­er­ties is vi­tal to a com­mu­nity’s over­all cul­tural and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment plan.”

PHOTO BY HE­LEN MOR­LEY/FOR THE MID-NORTH MON­I­TOR

Wendy Ash­ton, Rhea Con­stan­tineau and Lau­rann Van Volken­burg were three mem­bers of the SABE group who spoke to peo­ple at the Fi­bre Arts Fes­ti­val about the vi­tal role the AB El­lis build­ing has held in the Es­panola com­mu­nity.

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