County proceeding with archives

When Well­ington County expands the archives here in 2009, it will mark the end of a tenant re­lationship that has lasted for years with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs.
Information, seniors, and heritage committee chairman Brad Whitcombe said in an in­terview on March 14 that his committee had earlier in the week deferred to recom­men­dations dealing with the ar­chives expansion plan in order to make arrangements for two farms groups that are users of the Wellington Coun­ty Muse­um and Archives.
Whitcombe said the county will first work with the Well­ington Federation of Agricul­ture and other farm groups in order to find them free meeting space, which they have en­joyed at the OMAFRA offices to date.
Secondly, he said, the county will be working with the ministry and the Ontario Realty Corporation to find office space, which includes a new home for OMAFRA offices.
County councillor Carl Hall has been telling council that he is opposed to using the space OMAFRA uses for the archives expansion. He said at county council last month that Well­ington County is first and fore­most an agricultural commu­nity, and he wants to see the ministry remain in a central location.
Hall reiterated on Tuesday that tearing down the building that houses the ministry for a new archives does not make him happy, and there are dozens of commodity groups that need the meeting space at the county museum.
He acknowledged that county council has the final decision and there has not yet been a firm proposal the tear down that section of building. He said groups for beef, dairy, crops, vegetable growers, sheep, as well as Farm Safety and the county plowmen’s association use the building now, and agriculture is important in Wellington County.
But Whitcombe said that the ministry has known that ex­pansion plans at the archives will require the space it now occupies. He said the Federa­tion of Agriculture complaint was “a bit of a surprise, and that is why there is a delay. The county has to give nine months notice before taking over the ministry space, and work is not scheduled to begin until 2009.”
The county recently approv­ed a design, but that is as far as the project has proceeded.
Whitcombe also indicated that the county is working hard to keep the ministry located some­where in Centre Well­ing­ton, which is a central location for all of the county.
“We’ve talked to [Centre Well­ington Mayor] Joanne Ross-Zuj, and they’ve indicat­ed they will help,” Whitcombe said.
He noted that for the federa­tion, there are meeting spots available at Wellington Terrace, and also that Veteran’s Hall, in the basement of the Centre Wellington municipal office, is free to community groups.
“There’s lots of spots,” Whitcombe said, adding, “It’s nine months. It won’t be until next year.”
Ross-Zuj said in an inter­view that there have been some enquiries to her municipality, and Centre Wellington will be please to work with the county to find solutions.
Hall indicated on Friday that if a compromise can be reached that keeps OMAFRA offices central, he can go along with the proposed changes.
Meanwhile, Whitcombe’s committee has recommended the cou­nty start pre-quali­fying con­tractors for the work next year and staff be auth­orized to issue a request for proposal for architects. All decisions will be made at county council, and the issue will likely be considered on March 27.