Bruce County unlawfully closed meetings over demo of historic home
BRUCE COUNTY, ONT. -- Bruce County has had its wrist slapped for holding unlawful closed door meetings.
“I think there’s a lot of problems in Bruce County. Three investigations. A minimum of 18 unlawfully closed meetings,” says Laura Robinson, of the Southampton Cultural Heritage Conservancy.
The unlawful closed door meetings, dating back to 2016, were dealing with plans for the demolition of the former St.Paul’s Anglican Rectory in Southampton.
It was built in 1893, and topped the National Trust Conservancy’s Most Endangered Places List last year. That’s because Bruce County wanted to tear it down to make way for the Nuclear Innovation Institute.
Members of the Southampton Cultural Heritage Conservancy (S.C.H.C) allege Bruce County committed a “breach of trust” by using a sizeable restricted-use gift from philanthropist Bruce Krug. The money was designated to help the Bruce County Museum to house and showcase the county’s archives, not to buy a historic home, and demolish it to build a nuclear research centre.
“I think it’s ironic that the Krug Estate Trust which was restricted for archive storage, display, and showcasing could be misused with the intent to demolish a national historic site,” says Sheila Latham, Chair of the Southampton Cultural Heritage Conservancy.
Bruce County council says it has learned a lesson. The Nuclear Innovation Institute has a new home in Port Elgin, and councillors have since undergone closed meeting training.
“We have made significant changes and we don’t expect to run into any jams in the future,” says Bruce County Warden, Janice Jackson.
The future of the 1893 rectory remains up in the air. The county says they still need room for their archives, and local historians don’t want 254 High St. tore down.
“We want to ensure that the building is preserved and that the trust be used for what Mr. Krug wanted it for, which for the the archives building,” says Robinson.
“We’re clear out of space at our current museum, and our archival collection is growing all the time. So, we need to have a new home for the archives, and we’d like to keep it on the property of the museum,” says Jackson.
Latham says she’d be fine if someone bought the historic home, and protected it permanently.
The 1893 rectory will remain standing for the time being, as the S.C.H.C filed a court injunction blocking it’s demolition last year. Robinson hopes to resolve the case via mediation.