Rescue plan for plane
City council to vote next week on less costly restoration deal
The Blockhouse Island Sabre Jet could stay in the air after all.
Brockville councillors have given preliminary approval to a motion to pay local artist Dave Sheridan to repaint the vintage fighter jet, backing a contract just over half as costly as the one they rejected in the spring.
The motion heads to next Tuesday’s council meeting for a vote on final approval.
“I think it’s quite reasonable for the work that we’re looking at now,” said Councillor Phil Deery, who joined a volunteer committee formed in response to earlier fears the plane might have to be taken down.
The plane, which is a war memorial, is “a calling card for boaters passing by,” added Deery.
Should council back the motion next week, the city will spend $36,000 on the work, rather than the $66,144 initially proposed.
In May, city council’s finance, administration and operations committee balked at that price tag and rejected an initial contract with a different firm to repaint the aging plane.
The Golden Hawks Sabre Jet was donated to the city on June 23, 1968, in memory of Canadian air crews who lost their lives.
But the deterioration of the plane’s paint job has reached the point where either something has to be done about it, or the plane will have to be removed.
Following council’s earlier rejection of the contract, locals came together in an effort to find solutions to avoid the removal of the Korean War-era F86 Sabre Jet.
Deery said he joined members of the volunteer committee on a trip to Sarnia, where a similar Sabre Jet restoration project happened in 2014.
The trip convinced members that using decals for the plane’s markings, rather than painting them directly, was an option for this project, said city operations director Conal Cosgrove.
The volunteer committee, whose goal was to get the project done at an acceptable cost, found other ways to save, such as donations of paint, decals and crane services.
City hall put out a fresh call for tenders as a result.
“The low bid does fit in within the budget that is remaining for the project,” added Cosgrove.
The city got three bids and chose the lowest, from Sheridan’s company, Creative Art Source Inc., in Maitland.
The amount comes in under the operations department project estimate of $40,000.
Cosgrove’s report to staff notes that Sheridan “has demonstrated the capability of undertaking this project through a variety of community projects.”
I think it’s quite reasonable for the work that we’re looking at now,”
Some of Sheridan’s other projects include the Women’s Memorial sculpture located next to the Sabre Jet display and the mural at the Via Rail station.
The restoration is not the only work being contemplated for the Blockhouse Island war memorial.
Committee members also hope to enhance the landscaping around it and resurface the column holding up the plane, said Cosgrove.
They hope that work could be covered by grants or community fundraising.
Mayor David Henderson noted that, following news the display’s future may be in doubt, people did come forward saying they were willing to donate to the preservation effort.
News of the plane’s deterioration followed another perilous episode more than a dozen years ago.
Workers had to remove the plane from its pedestal in August 2004 after city staff declared the structure unstable and a public hazard. The plane was grounded for months next to the pedestal while those repairs took place.
Last year, a study by the consulting firm Eastern Engineering concluded there are no further structural concerns either with the concrete column or the plate that holds the plane to it.
The laker John J. Boland makes its way along a windy St. Lawrence River as the Sabre Jet stands on Blockhouse Island on Wednesday.
Brockville Mayor David Henderson confers with city clerk Sandra MacDonald at Tuesday's city council meeting.