Jeff Green | Oct 27, 2005
Feature Article - October 27, 2005
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Feature ArticleOctober 27, 2005
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Township easing into major role with Railway Museum
by Jeff Green
Norm Landry, the chair of the Central Frontenac Railway Museum Committee, came to Central Frontenac Council this week to give an update on recent efforts by the committee, as he has several times in the past. The last time the Railway Museum Committee appeared before Council, Council voted to approve in principle the building of a railway museum/library.
But this time Norm Landry wanted a commitment from council to actually make the project happen.
While he didn’t walk away with a formal commitment on this occasion, he might have one in as little as two weeks. Council passed a resolution asking township staff to work out how the township can offer assistance to the venture.
In the past year, as Norm Landry informed Council this week, the railway museum has conducted a membership drive. “To date we have over 200 members signed up, which we consider to be a great success.”
“We intend to proceed, in the new year, with plans for a broadly based fundraising campaign,” according to Landry’s report to Council, but “before we do so, we need certain undertakings to be made by Council.”
The museum committee made several requests of Council. First, it asks that Council provide a building site for the railway museum. The site where the Sharbot Lake railway station originally stood is owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), and the committee has so far been frustrated in its attempt to get the CPR to reveal whether it is wiling to part with the land. There is a parcel of land adjacent to the CPR land that is owned by the township, and this site would also be suitable for the museum.
The committee also requested that the township grant extra land for outdoor displays and storage. As well, the township is being asked to agree to buy the museum, for a nominal fee, once it is built, and to commit to maintain it as a museum. The museum committee would be free to oversee museum programming and its collection of railway memorabilia.
The committee also requested that it become a committee of Council, so that its activities could then be covered under the township’s liability insurance.
In bringing these requests to Council, Landry said, “Without these basic assurances from Council, our Committee is of the opinion that further progress on this project will be severely compromised if not entirely curtailed.” As a whole, Council was receptive to the Railway Museum’s requests as a package, with one notable exception: Councillor Bob Harvey said he opposes the Railway Museum entirely.
“I’m not in favour of the museum,” he said, “even though I grew up across the road from the railroad and recognise how important the railway is in our history. But, if you look at the Smiths Falls [Railway] Museum, you see that is not an attractive building, and it does not bring in the tourists, either. I do not think that, in the long run, it would be an asset for the community.”
“We don’t intend to put up an ugly building,” a surprised Norm Landry responded.
In contrast to Harvey, most of the other councillors were supportive, and understood that the township will be required to start putting resources into the project.
The fact that the museum is connected to the building of a new library carries an extra benefit for Mayor Bill MacDonald.
“We realize that we are in need of more administrative space,” said Mayor MacDonald, referring to the space taken up currently by the public library in the basement of the township office. We also have a library that is bursting at the seams. This project might help us to solve our own space problems.”
Councillors Jack Nicolson and Logan Murray again expressed concerns that a new library in Sharbot Lake had been connected in a library consultant’s report to the closing of libraries elsewhere in the township, but Mayor Bill MacDonald again assured them that those concerns are unfounded.
“I’ve been a member of the library board for 18 years,” MacDonald countered, “and I can assure everyone that none of the libraries in Central Frontenac will be closing.”
Staff was directed to evaluate the museum committee’s requests and prepare a township response for the next meeting of Council.