Mono to look into acquiring heritage church, community hall

September 14, 2023   ·   0 Comments


It’s hoped the Hockley Historical Community Hall and Church will be a feature for residents for another 150 years.

In a bid to ensure that longevity, the volunteer board that operates the site would like the Town of Mono to take over management of the heritage property.

Tom Darlow, a director of the Hockley Historical Community Hall and Church Organization, told council on Sept. 12 that the demands of time on volunteers has become too much to ask.

“The amount of time that it takes to keep these facilities in good working shape is extensive,” he said. “The type of work we do, I think, is becoming more and more unique.”

Rentals and fundraisers have been taking an enormous amount of time, he said. The volunteer hours required of board members to continue operation and maintenance has become too much. And, he said, they’re unlikely to find other volunteers who may be willing to continue the demands of time.

The facilities are “gems in the community” with historical significance. But they’re also the only meeting place for community groups on that side of Mono, Darlow said.

Municipalities are well-suited to run meeting halls and community spaces, he said. Gone are the days of church groups and other service organizations running such places.

“One thing we’re not here for is financial, which may be rare,” he said. “I don’t know.”

In the past, the municipality and other levels of government have been very generous with the organization. And they received help to get them through the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown.

“Right now we are in a financial position where we are able to maintain our own expenses,” Darlow said. “We’re here specifically today not because we need money. It’s the time is becoming our issue.”

Darlow said the organization will continue fundraising for money to put into the site.

Mayor John Creelman said town council has been in discussion with the heritage organization about various scenarios for the future of the site. But this was the first formal presentation to council about the issue.

Councillor Ralph Manktelow said council has a number of issues with which it’s struggling.

“We have to decide if we need it,” Manktelow said. “We have two other community halls … and they’re not fully used.

“Do we have the staff to take care of it? I’m not sure that we do.”

And there are possible upgrades needed at the site to bring it up to municipal standards, he said.

Manktelow suggested there’s a need for a business plan for the heritage site to be developed and studied by council before a decision is made.

“I’m really conflicted by this,” said Deputy Mayor Fred Nix.

He shared his appreciation for the volunteer group’s work in preserving the community hall and church site. But that is weighed against council’s responsibility to Mono’s taxpayers.

“We already have two community centres,” Nix said. “Both of them we lose money on. Lots of money.”

Mono has the lowest tax rate in Dufferin County, and Nix said he’d like to keep it that way.

“The pressures on us are great,” he said.

Coun. Elaine Capes said she doesn’t look at Mono’s community halls as money-losing enterprises. Rather, they’re investments in community, she said.

“I really appreciate that it brings neighbours and community together, and that is valuable and you can’t put a price on that,” she said.

However, she said, council still has to manage the municipal budget to the satisfaction of the citizens.

“I’m not sure I understand what your expectation is of a partnership,” Capes said. “You say you’re going to continue to do things. Why do you need us?”

Darlow said one of the goals would be to figure out how such a partnership will work. Hopefully, it will include fewer volunteer hours to keep the lights on at the site, he said.

“For us to actually take it on as a municipal-owned facility, it would have to be probably invested in quite substantially to bring it up to the standards that are required under the municipal regulations,” Capes said.

“That’s to say nothing about the money that would be needed to run the facility, she said.

Creelman said there isn’t many amenities for residents on that side of the municipality. And he suggested there could be ways to bring the facility up to snuff that wouldn’t be too costly.

“I would hope that when staff looks at this, they look at it from the standpoint of what we can do at a minimum as opposed to a maximum,” he said.

Council agreed to have staff look into the site, its needs, its budget implications, and to report back.

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