News

Arts centre repairs won't be cheap

By Monte Sonnenberg, Simcoe Reformer

The Norfolk Arts Centre in Simcoe. (Monte Sonnenberg/Simcoe Reformer)

The Norfolk Arts Centre in Simcoe. (Monte Sonnenberg/Simcoe Reformer)

SIMCOE - 

There was a fair amount of grumbling this week at Norfolk council over the high cost of repairs to heritage buildings.

The Norfolk Arts Centre in Simcoe has been in line for major exterior repairs for the past several years.

The former mansion on Lynnwood Avenue is a national historic site. However, Waterford Coun. Harold Sonnenberg blanched Tuesday night when he learned that the total cost of repairs will be up to $540,000.

Sonnenberg said the price “is ludicrous,” adding it should be about $54,000.

He said that $540,000 today will buy a large home on a substantial lot complete with air conditioning and a paved driveway.

“When these builders see the tender is from Norfolk County, they add a zero to their estimate,” Sonnenberg told council.

“I will not be supporting this. I understand heritage and I understand conservation. But for how many centuries are we going to keep pouring money into an old building?

“The Greeks reached a point where they stopped putting money into the Parthenon. The Romans eventually stopped pouring money into the Colosseum.”

The pending work involves repairs to windows, woodwork, masonry, the west portico and the south porch.

Council awarded the work Tuesday to BRC Restoration of Toronto. BRC Restoration submitted the lowest of six bids received for the job.

Lee Robinson, Norfolk’s general manager of public works, says municipalities everywhere are seeing high prices for heritage restoration.

She pointed out that heritage restoration is painstaking and substantially different from new construction.

“The heritage designation increases our costs considerably,” Robinson said.

Simcoe Coun. Peter Black defended the expenditure, saying the NAC property is “a national treasure.”

He pointed out that Parks Canada is offering to cover half the cost.

Black also noted that the six firms bidding did so blindly. As such, he suspects Norfolk is getting a fair price for the job.

As a condition of its support, Parks Canada has imposed a March 31 deadline to complete the work.

MSonnenberg@postmedia.com