St. Marys Journal Argus
Citing a “hue and cry” about an original decision to remove the westernmost chimney from the St. Marys Town Hall, Town Council quickly convened a Special Meeting on Monday, Sept. 29, and decided instead to put it back up with steel tie rods holding it more firmly in place.
In late August, a construction crew destined for measuring up planned repairs to the 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. At that time, scaffolding had been erected beneath the chimney, and Marsh’s crew was awaiting Ministry of Labour approval to occupy the scaffolding.
Quizzed about how long he expected the work to take, he gave a range of between a month and five weeks. And, 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.
By Sept. 29, however, Council and administrative staff had decided to revisit the issue. That day, Marsh’s crew had received Ministry of Labour go-ahead to be on the scaffolding, but it was apparent that Council had not been granted a similar go-ahead to permanently remove the chimney.
With McCotter and Van Galen both unable to attend the hastily-arranged meeting, the decision was unanimous among the four voting Council members to rebuild the chimney.
The work has delayed preparations by the St. Marys Community Players (SMCP) for its ucpoming fall production of You Can't Take it With You, which is scheduled to hit the Town Hall auditorium between Oct. 23 and Nov. 2. Crew member Gary Austin spoke at the Sept. 29 meeting, cautioning that the amateur theatre troupe might have to cancel the show if they're not allowed back into the building.
Barriers were erected around the Town Hall as soon as the state of the chimney became apparent. Town staff have been temporarily relocated to the Municipal Operations Centre, and other activities in the building have been prohibited.
SMCP President Fern Pridham, however, sent a message early this week to the Journal Argus proclaiming "the show must go on."
"Even though we are disappointed not to be able to access the theatre to continue with the production right now, we understand that safety of the public comes first," Pridham wrote in a letter to the editor.
"I remain very optimistic that we will be opening 'You Can’t Take It With You' in October, hopefully on schedule, and that we will present a great show for our community and supporters! Our preparations — with a cast of 19 and a crew of 25-plus — are fully underway and, at this point, on schedule. Working closely with the very supportive Town staff, we are rehearsing in alternative space for what is a wonderful, heart-warming comedy.'
Pridham did announce, however, that ticket sales for "You Can't Take It With You" have been put on hold for the time being.
Work on the chimney began in earnest on Thursday, Oct. 2.