MORRISBURG – Carman House Museum was decommissioned by South Dundas October 16th.
Murray Richer, longtime member and chair of the Carman House Museum board of directors sat in the audience at the meeting to learn the fate of the museum.
“I’m frustrated,” he said about the decision. He sees the decision seriously jeopardizing the building, its contents and the gains that the board of directors has made in increasing visitors.
“Two summers ago, we saw 1,000 visitors,” he said. “That’s a considerable gain from when we took over in 2005,” Richer told the media following the meeting.
The resolution to “decommission the public museum, Carman House, until further notice to allow residential tenancy only at the discretion of the chief building official,” was the approved by council, and is effective immediately.
Lewis explained that by temporarily decommissioning the museum and doing some minor work, including: installation of smoke detectors, emergency escape ladder, removal of the interior door and changing the locks so that the tenant has direct access and control of the possessions within the structure itself, tenancy can continue.
Jim Locke who is the council representative to the museum committee expressed concern over keeping the authenticity of the building and pointed out that this proposal should have been discussed with the committee and especially its chair.
Richer said that neither he, nor the committee was told any of this prior to the meeting.
“The changes are really not that invasive,” said Donald Lewis, director of planning and enforcement and the municipality’s chief building official, who presented the report.
“Come spring will there be a problem with getting the museum back in there?” asked Locke.
“As long as all the minimum building code requirements are completed,” answered Lewis.
South Dundas councillor Bill Ewing pushed to have a move in date for the tenant, which was set at October 19th.
“This is only a bridge-gap measure between this council and the next council,” said South Dundas councillor Archie Mellan, pointing out that this move allows her to stay until May.
Lewis then explained that it will be up to the new council to expend the funds for the apartment’s building code-related work.
South Dundas treasurer and chief administrative officer Shannon Geraghty said that the new council at its first meeting in December will be asked for pre-budget approval to see if the building code work can proceed.
“We’re going to jeopardize our museum to keep a tenant,” said Locke, for whom Lewis clarified that the lathe and plaster would have to be removed to meet code.
“Then, we’ve lost our museum,” said a frustrated Locke.
Lewis also said that having the public portion of the museum is vital to the municipality having the property, because of a restrictive covenant. He said that without the public use, that property “should be vetted back to Ontario Hydro.”
“These decades of festering issues, eh,” commented South Dundas mayor Evonne Delegarde.
“We didn’t help this cause at all,” said South Dundas councillor Marc St. Pierre. “I have to apologize to the next council for this.”
Richer is not sure what the next steps will be for him.
“I’m kind of hoping for the next council to be completely different,” he said. He is proud of the 1,000 visitor mark that they achieved at this building. “This group doesn’t understand that they need everything they can get to build on tourism.”
Richer said that the tenant is vitally important to the Carman House, especially this time of year. “She is the security system.”
He is worried about how the artifacts in that building will be protected. “They don’t belong to the township, they belong to the people.”