Town provides $50,000 to Grand Falls House committee

Andrea Gunn
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Public meeting set for May 8

There’s a new volunteer committee in Grand Falls-Windsor, and they just received news they’d be getting some assistance from the Town, to the tune of $50,000.

The announcement was made Tuesday evening at the regular meeting of the Grand Falls-Windsor town council. The recipients? A new multidisciplinary volunteer special committee of the Heritage Society tasked with coming up with feasible and sustainable plan to preserve the historic Tudor style mansion known as the Grand Falls House.

The Grand Falls House and associated Mill Manager’s House were taken over by the province, along with the other Abitibi Bowater properties, when it expropriated the mill after its closure in 2009.

Earlier this year, the town received approval from the province for the acquisition of the Grand Falls House and associated property. The Town asked for an extension on making its final decision in light of an independent report citing that environmental cleanup of the property’s structures alone would cost almost $500,000.

Council is still awaiting completion of that study that will give them the price tag for the clean up of the outdoor portion of the property.

The town now has until May, 2015, to decide whether or not it will take over the property. Now they need to determine how to preserve it for the public in a way that will not burden taxpayers in the long run.

That’s why the town has approved the $50,000 in funding for the committee as seed money to help them obtain further federal and provincial funding, as well as enable them hire professionals for thing like a business plan, and feasibility studies.

Council is also providing the committee with working space in the town-owned Excite Building. Grand Falls-Windsor mayor

Al Hawkins told the Advertiser the town was happy to provide funding for and space to the group and said he’s confident in the group that has been formed to tackle the project.

Committee chair and local businesswoman Peggy Bartlett says she is thrilled with the funds from the town that will help them move forward with their mandate.

“We’re a volunteer group. We come without anything; we come offering ourselves and our time and our energy and our passion and our drive,” she said.

Bartlett said the committee now has 11 members with various backgrounds with the common goal of finding a viable future for the property. The goal is to preserve history, make the property accessible to the public while being self-sustainable.

Bartlett said the committee has already held a number of meetings, some with outside stakeholders. She said they’ve also started research into how other communities have tackled similar projects.

“The committee came together because we were all concerned about what was going to happen to the house and to the property,” Bartlett said. “Our gravest concern is that this property is going to be sold, or it’s just not going to be preserved for public use as a heritage site.”

The committee wants all citizens to be involved in the process and to do that they are holding a public meeting next week.

Committee member Bryan Blackmore said getting public input will be of utmost importance in the process of coming up with a feasible and sustainable future for the Grand Falls House property.

“A lot of people haven’t even had the opportunity to see the (Grand Falls House) because it was privately owned by the owners of the mill. The whole purpose behind a lot of what we’re trying to do is to have that house available for the public,” Blackmore said. “So the very first item on an agenda like this would be to have the public give us some ideas.”

The public meeting is set for May 8, 7 p.m., at the Mount Peyton Hotel. Blackmore said everyone is welcome to come with ideas and questions.

Organizations: Grand Falls House, Grand Falls-Windsor town council, Heritage Society Abitibi Bowater Mount Peyton Hotel

Geographic location: Grand Falls

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