Eganville – Concerns over the rubble in front of St. James the Less Catholic church have been brought to Bonnechere Valley council and there has been some action on the property, including the installation of a new fence by the old St. James school across the street.
“This demolition project has been ongoing well over two years,” Hugh Howard, the parish council chair, wrote to council in early May. “The completion of this work project would be very appreciated by St. James Parish members.”
He addressed his letter to council calling their attention to the “demolition project of a former high school and debris directly opposite of our St. James Parish entrance.
“Our parishioners have critical comments particularly concerning the piles of rubble, recently placed there, that are continually increasing in size with more debris,” he wrote.
St. James has weddings, baptisms, funerals and weekly parish masses, he said.
“Although COVID-19 has delayed larger parish events, we are still hosting life events, albeit with a reduced capacity,” he said. “We request, at the very least, that the rubble be moved directly opposite the church.”
This letter was first discussed on May 18 at a committee meeting of council. At the time, Councillor Brent Patrick recused himself, stating he would be involved in the redevelopment of the project. His brother, Chad Patrick, is behind the project.
Building Inspector Mark Schroeder, who is also handling by-law duties, said he talked to Mr. Patrick about it.
“He assured me he would have an excavator there and doing the clean up,” he said. “It is on his agenda to do it.”
There is a challenge getting equipment right now, he added.
Councillor Jack Roesner said this issue has been going on for a long time.
“Did you mention it to him a month ago?” he asked.
Mr. Schroeder said Mr. Patrick did guarantee it would be done within 30 days.
“I told him you can’t just keep putting this to the side,” he said.
“It’s well past the 30-day mark,” Coun. Roesner said.
Councillor Tim Schison asked if the provincial shut down on “non-essential” construction is impacting this. He said there seems to be some grey area.
“Would it fit into that ballpark?” he asked.
Mr. Schroeder said it would not be affected.
“That clean up could proceed with the provincial rules,” he said. “I still think part of the bigger problem is getting equipment right now.”
Since Mr. Howard was notified progress would begin on the clean up, he wrote a second letter to council thanking them for “the prompt clearing of debris in front of St. James.”
He said he was appreciative of the actions of council and the property owner.
This letter was part of the council package this past Tuesday and once again Coun. Patrick recused himself. No discussion occurred on the letter at that point, but there have been ongoing comments in the community about the clean up in the area of the old school. That building has been derelict for over two decades, long before the current property owner, Mr. Patrick, acquired the building.
Clean Up Continues
Speaking to the Leader this week, Chad Patrick said the two piles of debris in front of St. James have been cleaned up and more clean up is on the way at the adjacent property where the former Grey Sisters convent once stood. Both properties are owned by him.
“The Wellington Street side there was debris dropped off and actually there were two piles near where the church parishioners park,” he noted. “I don’t think the one pile was ours, but we just removed it.”
At present his construction firm is in the process of a large project in Bancroft and 30 of a planned 108 units are underway there with framing almost complete, but his next focus is in Eganville.
“In the next week or two, we are removing the rest of the convent,” he said. “People are complaining about that.”
The old convent building was demolished last year in March 2020, just when the pandemic was beginning.
“That project is our main focus now,” he promised.
As well, work will be happening on the large project he has planned for Eganville this fall at that location.
“My goal is to start there September 1st,” he said. “We have our 108 unit in Bancroft we are focusing on right now.”
Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader