The Hamilton Spectator

Vittoria residents ready to partner with Norfolk County to save hall


The people of Vittoria want to work with Norfolk County to save their village’s historic town hall.

“We care very deeply about this building,” said Nancy Racz, a member of the Vittoria Town Square Preservati­on Society and one of seven residents to speak at a March 18 public meeting about the venerable hall’s future.

The designated historic building has been closed since 2019 and is in need of extensive — and expensive — repairs to again be safe for use.

“We believe, by making step-bystep, sensible renovation­s, that the Vittoria town hall can become a vital part of our community for the present and future generation­s,” Racz said.

“We have some talented and knowledgea­ble people who are willing to assist with this project.”

The meeting inside council chambers in Simcoe was short and relatively sweet — at least when compared to a November public meeting that saw close to 300 residents pack the community centre in Vittoria. Residents attended to upbraid county council and staff for letting the hall deteriorat­e to the point that it needs more than $1 million in immediate repairs, plus a further $245,000 in capital upgrades over the next 20 years.

A petition to save the hall has garnered more than 2,000 signatures, according to preservati­on society member Michele Crandall, who called for “a viable community partnershi­p” between residents and the county.

“An overwhelmi­ng majority believe it is the ultimate responsibi­lity of Norfolk County to save the town hall,” Crandall said.

“Not to sell. Not to repurpose. And not to let demolition by neglect take hold.”

The building, which dates to 1879, was once a bustling community hub. But $300,000 earmarked for exterior repairs by the previous council was never spent. In its last year of operation the hall took in $4,400 in booking fees while costing taxpayers $30,000 to operate.

“We do understand the financial stress placed on the county and that difficult decisions need to be made,” said Gertrude Smith, speaking on behalf of the Vittoria Women’s Institute, which used the hall as a meeting place.

But Smith said repairs can be staggered to save money.

“We all have a responsibi­lity to ensure our built heritage is preserved and maintained for the public to use and enjoy, as well as being an asset to the county,” she said.

Coun. Chris Van Paassen said repairing the hall piecemeal will actually end up costing more.

“You can’t replace the windows until you fix the walls, and you can’t fix the walls until you fix the foundation,” Van Paassen said. “You can phase in painting bathrooms and updating a kitchen, but just to get the doors open again, you’ve got a lot of upfront capital costs.”

He doubts he could “persuade” his fellow councillor­s to commit nearly $1.5 million to repair the hall “when we have another community centre that is one block away.”

“I think I can get full support from council if a community not-forprofit group wanted to purchase the hall from the county at a very minimal cost … and do the updating,” he said. Council could be further convinced to match any grant funding such a group could secure, Van Paassen added.

The key, he said, will be enough people using the hall “to make it anywhere close to viable.”

“It can’t just be so that the women’s institute can hold monthly meetings, and nothing else. Is that demand still there?”

Staff will continue gathering ideas and present options for the town hall’s future to council this summer.

‘‘ It can’t just be so that the women’s institute can hold monthly meetings, and nothing else. Is that demand still there? CHRIS VAN PAASSEN NORFOLK COUNTY COUNCILLOR

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada