After lengthy debate, Renfrew votes to save CP caboose

·8 min read

Renfrew – The Canadian Pacific caboose will remain in Haramis Park and will be refurbished, but at little cost to the taxpayers of Renfrew.

Councillor Sandi Heins, who spearheaded a group of volunteers to save the caboose after council made plans in May to either relocate or sell the rail car as scrap, read a prepared report she helped create at the Tuesday, August 17 Zoom meeting of council

After much discussion, Coun. Heins asked for a recorded vote on a motion that the caboose be restored where it currently sits and that $5,000 be provided by the town towards the project from the 2021 budget. Five council members voted in favour – Mayor Don Eady, Reeve Peter Emon and Councillors Heins, Tom Sydney and Andrew Evans. Voting against the motion were Councillors Mike Coulas and Arlene Jamieson.

“The railway was significant in the development of Renfrew, whether transporting people from one location to the next or transporting goods, including wood, grain or the hockey team to its next game in Haileybury,” Coun. Heins said as she prepared to discuss the reasons why council should vote in favour of refurbishing/restoring the caboose.

“I am aware that council is very cognizant of spending, but hopefully this information and plan of action will ease council’s concern and provide a plan of action that sees the caboose restored,” she said.

There are many people and businesses that will financially support the restoration project, either in monetary donations or supplies and services, she said.

A cost concern was the removal of lead paint, which is only on the exterior of the caboose, Coun. Heins said. Ottawa Contaminants Solutions (OCS), a consulting firm that deals with contaminants, took on the task of collecting samples and getting them tested.

“We have looked at engaging OCS to oversee this project,” she said. “They have done this in many locations and have the expertise and know exactly what needs to be done and provide us with inspection reports that are to the satisfaction of the legislation that’s in place.”

As for lead paint, “…it was determined some lead paint, a level type three, was present in some of the underlayers of the original paint,” she said. “No lead paint exists in the interior of the caboose.”

She noted OCS provided detailed information on the type 3 lead paint and the process required to remove and restore the exterior of the caboose. Reports from OCS were included in the council package for all to review.

Coun. Heins explained the group, known as Friends of the Caboose and Haramis Park, involved in restoring the caboose, decided on a five-phase approach to the restoration.

The first phase is the removal of the lead paint, which will be done by professionals, she said. Three employees of Marshall’s Construction of Renfrew, a company owned by Dave Bennett, will be trained by OCS for removal of the lead base paint and disposal of same, she said, as it must be done according to Ministry of Labour guidelines.

Coun. Heins was happy to report that all safety equipment will be supplied by Renfrew merchants and Marshall’s Construction is donating its labour.

“We are very passionate in making this go forward and not having the Town of Renfrew taxpayers fork out the money,” she said.

As for insurance, which is required, it will be added on to Marshall’s contractor insurance and OCS will supply its general liability insurance, along with its WSIB, to cover the project on acceptance of the start date, she said.

Phases Two though Five will be completed through monetary and services/supplies donations and volunteer work, Coun. Heins said, noting the group has about $3,000 in donations so far.

Phase Two would be the painting of the caboose’s exterior, which will be done by volunteers. It’s hopeful the town would cover the cost of paint and paint supplies, which will total just over $3,000, she said.

Phases Three through Five have been created, but still need much work on how to complete each one, she said, noting a big concern is the issue of accessibility. She noted there are ways around accessibility, including providing a virtual tour with cameras.

“There are so many ways to educate people in regards to rail or the inside of a caboose with a virtual tour with cameras on the outside, similar to what they do with the rail tunnel in Brockville,” she explained.

While there have been times when it seems the town’s recreation department and the Friends of the Caboose and Haramis Park appear to be working at odds, it’s the hope the two can somehow find a way to work together, she said.

She referred to a report that was to follow her presentation from Recreation Director Kevin Hill, in which the cost to remove the lead paint was $15,000. Coun. Heins admitted, she was “taken aback” when she saw that Mr. Hill spent municipal money to have the paint tested seven days after OCS collected paint to be tested, which she had accomplished with no taxpayers’ funds. While it’s great the two reports show the same thing, it’s too bad municipal funding was used to come up with the same answer, she said.

“I’m disappointed that we did not have better communication between Director Hill and myself,” Coun. Heins said. “I would have shared this report. I’m not sure where the authorization came to get this (testing) done.”

It was later identified by Coun. Coulas that Mr. Hill was instructed by council to have an analysis done of the paint “regardless of findings of Coun. Heins’ group. He was only doing that job as directed, to get a test done on the paint.”

Coun. Evans thanked Coun. Heins for “the report and research and the resources of third-party experts.”

It’s great that community members want to participate in this rehabilitation process, he said, recalling that this is a “time-loved asset” that is recognizable by the community, and will continue as a landmark.

Reeve Emon was concerned with the time line, questioning if weather was a consideration regarding removal of the paint or the painting of the caboose itself.

“I need reassurance that the time lines are tight enough that the task can be completed before weather changes,” he said.

Coun. Heins said once the training is completed, removal of the lead paint will begin and should be done within a week-and-a-half. While she agreed the work is dependant on the weather, “hopefully we will have a nice stretch of fall to do the work.

“We are aware of the fall coming and excited to get it done, “she said. “Every day makes a difference.”

The paint will be applied with a sprayer, while detailed painting around edges will be done with paint brushes, she said, answering a question on how the paint would be applied to the exterior.

Coun. Coulas was concerned about the lead paint.

“It’s bad or worse than asbestos,” he said. “If it leaks onto the ground and gets away, people can get very sick because of it. It’s a very, very dangerous product to be handling and you need to have experience with it.”

Coun. Heins stressed that’s why there will be staff training by OCS.

“They are very aware and follow strict guidelines on how to take it off, where it lands, how it’s collected and how it’s disposed of,” she reiterated.

While it was hopeful it could be disposed of locally, Coun. Heins said OCS will look into where the lead paint can be properly disposed.

“There are hazardous waste sites that do have that designation,” she said.

In answering a statement regarding the tearing down of railway stations in town, Coun. Heins said that was a decision council made years ago and it was a wrong decision. However, it’s done and over with.

“This is what I see as an icon for Renfrew,” she said. “Some people embrace that it had significance here.

“Volunteers are excited to work on the caboose to see what we can do to make that a landmark.”

Coun. Heins said she appreciated council’s comments and concerns.

“That’s what this council is about, receiving information,” she said. “If there is more to bring forward, that’s what I saw as my role. We are stewards of the municipality. I see the caboose as a heritage piece of Renfrew. Some people see it differently.”

Coun. Sydney’s concern was liability, but was comforted knowing all parties who would work on the caboose would have some type of liability insurance.

“This is a municipally-owned structure in a municipally-owned park,” he said. “What is the liability of the town should a situation not go correctly, or should a company do a mistake and lead paint gets into the air? So many variables to concern.

“It’s not just an historical factor. There is a bigger picture to this than just being a significant part of the community and its heritage,” he stated.

He questioned the municipality’s responsibility in protecting people working on the project as well as volunteers.

He suggested getting a legal opinion as well.

Coun. Heins reiterated that OCS will oversee this project, which they have done numerous times in other municipalities and for many companies.

Coun. Heins said it’s time a decision was made regarding the caboose, recalling that it took Howie Haramis “quite a bit” of work to get it to the town.

While there were comments that possibly more information should be forthcoming at another meeting, Coun. Heins said it’s time to make a decision.

It was supported by a majority of council to restore the caboose in its current location and that $5,000 be committed towards the project from the town coffers.

Connie Tabbert , Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader

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