St. Marys Journal Argus
Theatrical troupes shouldn’t have to worry about chimneys unless they’re performing Mary Poppins, or a show about Santa Claus. But don’t try to tell the St. Marys Community Players (SMCP) that.
Earlier this month, SMCP volunteers were in the middle of constructing and painting the set for their upcoming production of “You Can’t Take it With You,” with performance dates between Oct. 23 and Nov. 2. But in late August, a construction crew destined for measuring up planned repairs to the St. Marys Town Hall steeple made a bucket-lift stop at the building’s westernmost chimney. There, a discovery was made of crumbling stone, and it was quickly decided to switch the construction crew’s focus to what were described as “emergency repairs” on the chimney.
Gary Marsh of Stratford-based Marsh Construction Consulting told Town Council on Tuesday Sept. 23 that his company's crew applied force to the 28-foot chimney and it moved 12 inches at the top.
As of Sept. 23, scaffolding had been erected beneath the chimney, and Marsh says his crew is now awaiting Ministry of Labour approval to occupy the scaffolding. Quizzed about how long he expects the work to take, he gave a range of between a month and five weeks.
In the meantime, all activities and employees in the building have been relocated. (The Council meeting, normally held in the Council Chambers, was held in the Municipal Operations Centre.)
Left with no place to go, however, is the partly-completed set for “You Can’t Take it With You.”
Speaking to the Journal Argus prior to the Sept. 23 Council meeting, SMCP crew member David Cullen said the theatre troupe had been offered assurances that they’ll be granted access to the Auditorium space in time to prepare for the Oct. 23 opening night. “As long as we’re in (to the building) by Oct. 6, we’ll be okay.”
Judging from the discussion on Sept. 23, however, that timeline appears in jeopardy.
With an estimated cost from Marsh Construction of $109,000 to have the chimney meticulously removed, the blocks numbered so they could be replaced at a later date, and the roof fixed from any damage done through removal, Council opted instead for what they hope will be a cheaper alternative: complete and permanent removal of the already non-functional chimney, and capping of the roof.
Only Councillor Tony Winter was opposed, citing a belief that permanently removing the chimney goes against the Town's own Heritage Conservation District restrictions. Councillor Stephen McCotter was absent from the Sept. 23 meeting.
Asked how long it might take his crew to physically remove the chimney — leaving only roof repairs to complete, which presumably might be possible to undertake while once again allowing access to the Town Hall's interior — the construction company owner responded it might take three weeks for the first step of the job. If that's the case, SMCP crew probably won't be back inside by Oct. 6.
"Until I get that chimney down, I don't want anybody in that building," Marsh commented. "If one block falls while it's being removed, and falls through the roof, that's it. The liability is just too high."
Councillor Don Van Galen urged staff to keep the Community Players advised of all developments in the emergency repair.