If the province intends to demolish the historic former Kent County jail and courthouse, it won’t be without the knowledge of the municipality, according to a motion passed recently.
Council approved a motion by Coun. Doug Sulman that the municipality “take all steps necessary to ensure the jail is not demolished.”
Sulman made the motion because of concerns that the provincial government is less than forthcoming in its plans for the facility that was built in 1850.
“I don’t like the way this is going,” Sulman said. “We used to get notification about a property being redundant or up for demolition. Now we receive a circular with all of the properties across Ontario. You have to know what you’re looking for or you could miss it.”
Sulman said confusion exists over whether the province will demolish the 1950s era courthouse or the original jail and courthouse which dates from a century before.
“The notice that the property is surplus says 17 Seventh St.,” he said. “I’ve seen stranger things happen with the province. It could easily be confused, and once it’s destroyed there’s no going back.”
Ian McConachie of Infrastructure Ontario said before any demolition, under provincial protocol the building would be offered to various levels of government. If no interest is shown, it is then offered to non-profit groups, adjacent property owners and eventually to the general public.
McConachie said no provincial entity has expressed interest and expects the building will be offered to the municipality within the next few weeks.
In an earlier interview with The Voice, he noted, “The building will be offered at market value but we haven’t completed a market value assessment yet,” he said. “I expect that will happen soon, but we don’t have to have the assessment done before we offer the property.”
Sulman said the historic nature of the building demands that it be preserved as the first seat of government.
John Sigurjonsson of the Friends of the Kent County Courthouse spoke before council and said his group is in favour of providing tours of the site in period costume and renting the facility for historic occasions.
He said the group is pursuing grant possibilities and will have a business study prepared within the next few weeks.