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Kawartha Lakes approves demolition of walls at Lindsay museum

DAN CEARNS, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, for The Standard

KAWARTHA LAKES: After a lengthy discussion, the City of Kawartha Lakes has approved the demolition of courtyard walls at the Old Gaol Museum in Lindsay.

At a meeting on Tuesday, August 10th, councillors approved a motion to approve the demolition and to have components of the wall be retained for historical use.

At the meeting, councillors saw a report, from Economic Development Officer Emily Turner, on the safety of the walls.

“The property includes a large walled exercise yard. The original wall was demolished and replaced around 1989, and the current wall dates to this time. The new walls were built when the property was still an operational correctional facility. In 2017, Building and Property staff commissioned an assessment of the wall, which found the structural integrity of the walls had been compromised. Since this time, several reports have been prepared by qualified engineers confirming the structural issues with the wall,” read the report.

However, Athol Hart, Chair of the City’s Municipal Heritage Committee, appeared before Council to provide his opposition to the demolition.

While engineers had found the walls to be unsafe, Mr. Hart said an architect’s report found the opposite to be true.

“The courtyard walls are solid, reinforced masonry with full foundations,” he explained. “What we have here is the deterioration of the capstones on the wall, and that’s due to lack of maintenance. They can, in fact, be repaired and replaced.”

Mr. Hart also tried to dispel the idea these walls have less heritage value because they are not original, “It is unimportant to their designation that they are not the original walls.”

Mr. Hart had a concern, as well, about the possibility of the work disturbing an “unregistered cemetery” on the site.

Ward 6 councillor Ron Ashmore made a motion not to approve the demolition of the walls, but it failed to get enough support to pass. Council then moved on to an approval motion for the demolition.

“I’m of the mind these courtyard walls need to be demolished. I’m not questioning the heritage value. I’m not going to have a discussion about bodies [buried on the site]. Staff know the protocols when stuff like that is involved. I’m simply going by the engineering comments that I’m reading,” Mayor Andy Letham stated.

Council later voted to approve the demolition motion.

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