AN OPEN LETTER TO THE VILLAGE
from the Bear River Board of Trade
WHY OUR W I N D M I L L H A S TO COME DOWN
Feelings in our community have been running understandably high about the loss of our beloved Windmill, centre of our village and home to the Bear River Visitor Information Centre. We in the Board of Trade share these feelings, and want you to know precisely why we have taken this serious step. We also want to address certain myths and misconceptions circulating in the village, and to outline what we see as the immensely positive prospects that are already beginning to emerge from this situation.
During the course of recent restoration efforts, the Board of Trade uncovered evidence of advanced structural deterioration that posed a severe risk to public health and safety. The extent of this decay, not just in portions of the building but throughout the structure, shocked even the experienced inspector in charge of the investigation, Rick Jacques (who has previous experience as Project Manager for the hugely successful restoration of a similar VIC in Weymouth), as well as the Board of Trade’s Council and directors. (You can see the extent of the damage in a short video on our website at: http://www.bearriver.ca).
As the Board’s concern is first and foremost for the physical safety of visitors to and residents working in the Centre, we had to act quickly and decisively — and we have done so.
On May 21st, independent structural engineer Francis Doucet advised that the Board of Trade as registered legal owners move to immediately and completely demolish the building. No building permit will be issued for repair. No one is to be allowed entry to the building because of risk to life and limb. And no further salvaging of the structure will be allowed.
The municipality of Annapolis County Building Inspection Department and its Unsafe Premises Manager have agreed with these findings and as such have issued a demolition permit.
As sole owner of the property and building, the Board of Trade is legally and financially responsible for any and all activities on the site. The damage and consequent risk to safety have exposed the Board to huge liability in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more. This is not something that any conscientious organization in our position would assume.
The Board of Trade as an organization takes full responsibility for the dereliction over the years of its responsibilities and duty in caring for this village asset, leading to this unfortunate outcome.
PARTNERSHIPS OF BEAR RIVER
Our relationships with the Municipalities of both Annapolis and Digby are vital to us. They fund the Visitor Information Centre and have an interest in and proper concern with how we maintain it. All too often, funding agencies have perceived Bear River as a kind of black hole into which cash disappeared and things didn’t get done. It is absolutely crucial that we reverse this perception — as we are doing — and that things are seen to be dealt with responsibly and openly.
All documentation regarding the present operations and initiatives by the Board, including inspection and engineering reports, are open to the public and can be seen by request.
SHOULD WE TRY TO SAVE THE BUILDING?
All options for preservation and rebuilding, including partial salvaging of the top section, were carefully considered. All were either impractical or impossibly expensive. Repair work had in fact begun on the windmill (rebuilding of sills, electrical repairs and more), when it became apparent that an engineer was needed to further assess the extent of the deterioration. The engineer’s report requiring demolition reinforced the concerns of the Waterfront Committee, and was emphatic and unequivocal.
WHAT’S THE FUTURE?
Surprisingly, it’s bright. Something positive is already emerging from the bleak and black. There are clear options for moving the Visitor Information Centre to another location. And there’s a big opportunity for a new definition and statement about our village to the world — and to ourselves.
People in the village who’ve held back in the past, and who now sense the positive energy flowing in our community, are already “coming out of the woodwork” (!) to offer their time and resources. In the independent, creative, do-it-ourselves spirit that Bear River is famous for!
WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU
We want to develop a business plan, a visioning process, and a community consultation to bring forward your best ideas and dreams for the future — and to incorporate your fond memories and stories of the Windmill and waterfront as it was, in a new tourist centre exhibition.
First step in this will be a public meeting next week with date and time to be announced and posted throughout the community. At this meeting, the engineer with his report, along with other public officials, will be available for questions and comments. We hope we’ll see you there.