Presented By Chris Pickup

Imagine, if you will, seven men sitting round a table and with a unanimous raising of their hands – boom – the future face of Cayuga is entirely changed.

Council’s unanimous vote to centralize administration off its present site, tear down the current admin building and sell the courthouse grounds to a developer, had set the county’s sights directly on the museum and log cabin, which were now in the way of its plans.

A web of deceit surrounded the decision to demolish Cayuga’s Haldimand County Museum and move the adjoining 1835 Nicholas Log Cabin off site to a seasonally operated Selkirk location where no-one can watch over it in the winter.

If the fragile log cabin survives the move, it will quickly deteriorate, open to Lake Erie sun, winds and weather and a lovely view of a forest of wind turbines – and vandals.

When the news hit the streets, the community was outraged. There was a  petition of some thousand signatures, and a well-attended museum protest. Delegations attended council to state their opposition. The uproar finally became so strong councillor Morison was forced to hold two public meetings in November 2016 where some 150 residents told him and his bodyguard of county staff to leave the two buildings alone.

County planner Craig Manley tried to get around the problem, asserting the museum would be landlocked once the current admin building was demolished. He didn’t back down until a complaint to the Institute that regulates his profession forced him to acknowledge that he “made a mistake”.

A previous county building condition report noted the 4,000 sq.ft. HCMA museum building was well maintained. Repairs to the building over the next 10 years was forecast at $140,000 for a new roof and HVAC system which would be mostly offset by an annual provincial grant of $12,100. That grant will disappear with the new library/museum complex.

Left unsaid by anyone at the county is the financial cost of all this turmoil, estimated at well north of a million dollars.

Figures extracted from the county’s own reports Indicate costs of adding square footage to the library and new admin building to house artifacts and genealogy, demolish the HCMA bldg and remediate, and cost to move genealogy files to the library at $942,000.

Building costs have escalated since then, and the county has reduced both museum and library space at the new complex to compensate. Add to this the loss of the annual $12,100 provincial grant because this complex is not a traditional stand-alone museum.

The removal of the log cabin will be at least $100,000.

Then there are the uncalculated costs of recording and cataloguing 14,500 artifacts, safely and securely transporting them to nine or more separate locations, costs of display cases, multimedia displays, software and hardware in the new admin building, new file cabinets to house genealogy files at the new Cayuga Library, and more. And the county just spent another $60,000 on Edinburgh Square.

The $140,000 to keep the HCMA is a bargain. However, the reality on the ground is that this arrogant council will NOT back down from their plans.

They don’t like being told they’re wrong about anything.

Mayor Ken Hewitt went so far as to say in a public forum that “some people don’t like change and sometimes we have to force progress.” HIS idea of progress, not ours.

When this began, a few of us consulted a lawyer well versed in municipal law. To put it mildly, he was gobsmacked. I think you’re dealing with a rogue council here, he said.

We took it to Ontario’s Ombudsman office. Months of research and reams of paper later they admitted they couldn’t do anything for us either, because council was complying with the rules and holding public meetings. We can force them to hold public meetings, but we can’t force them to listen, and we can’t force them to act on what they hear, was the verdict.

Now councillor Morison is facing an ethics complaint on his real estate and voting patterns.

The complaints of arrogance have been coming thick and fast from all areas of the county over this last term of council. However we have a solution. We ARE the solution. We can boot them all out on election day.

Get to know the new candidates, talk to them on the doorstep, attend candidate meetings and make your choice for a different kind of councillor, one with the ability to listen and act on our concerns.