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Efforts for new community centre, fire hall in Middleton alive and well

The old fire hall behind town hall in Middleton is not in great shape and is extremely cramped for all of the Middleton Fire Department’s modern equipment. Plans to build a new community centre and fire hall hinge on provincial and federal funding that has not yet been secured.
The old fire hall behind town hall in Middleton is not in great shape and is extremely cramped for all of the Middleton Fire Department’s modern equipment. Plans to build a new community centre and fire hall hinge on provincial and federal funding that has not yet been secured. - Lawrence Powell

MIDDLETON, N.S. - Middleton’s new community centre/fire hall plans are still alive and hopes are high that funding from provincial and federal sources will come through, said Mayor Sylvester Atkinson.

The proposed structure would create a $3.4 to $3.9-million community centre for Middleton and include space for the Middleton Fire Department whose members, trucks, and gear are currently in cramped quarters in their aging headquarters behind town hall.

Plans hit a snag recently when it was discovered the parcel of land planned for the development wasn’t suitable. But the town says negotiations are in the works for another piece of land still within town limits.

“The update on that is that we are still in talks with the owner, so the actual site isn’t public at this time,” said Middleton CAO Jennifer Boyd after a recent meeting of the Community Centre & Fire Hall Committee.

“The design discussion that we had was around whether or not the footprint of both the fire hall side and the community centre side needed to be reduced to accommodate funding,” she said. “Nothing was decided. There was just a discussion and the action from the meeting was for the fire chief and the deputy chief to meet with our consultant to look at whether practically reducing the size would work and what that would look like, and then to bring it back with costing on it as a fall back.”

Atkinson said he’s afraid that if they went too much smaller they wouldn’t be building much more than what they already have.

“And we want to get rid of what we have for two reasons: one, because of its condition but also because of size,” Atkinson said, adding that’s why he wants to meet with West Nova MP Colin Fraser and Annapolis MLA Stephen McNeil to see what money is available federally and provincially.

Committee members are hoping that meeting can be set up within the next few weeks.

Capital campaign

There has also been talk of a capital campaign to raise funds, depending on the success of talks with the province and Ottawa.

“There was some discussion about who will lead that but that hasn’t been finalized yet,” Boyd said.”

“We’re going to strike a committee of community people as well as firemen and council to look at fundraising through various sources – community and otherwise,” Atkinson said.

Middleton Fire Chief Mike Toole hopes the meeting with Fraser and McNeil will be within the next week or so, he said Oct. 31. He said there is a fairly significant funding shortfall and it’s possible an outside source of funding will have to be provided.

He said a capital campaign is something to look at.

“There was steamrolling on that back in 2009, 2010 when we were getting things started,” he said, “but it’s kind of laid low since.”

Toole also said the proposed property suits firefighters.

“Based on what we would be constructing, no it’s not 100 per cent perfect, but it will suffice for the residents of the town and Annapolis County for sure,” he said of the land under negotiation.

Long time

Toole said a new fire hall for Middleton has been a long time in the making.

“I think my first minutes were 2008, ’09,” he said in reference to initial discussions within the department. “It’s been a long, old battle.”

Toole said going forward depends on funding.

“I feel positive but if unfortunately if there is no government level participation, for the town financially it wouldn’t be a good move to do it on their own.”

But Atkinson said he’s still optimistic, adding land negotiations might be resolved as of an in-camera meeting that was slated for Nov. 5.

Earlier this year the town had put the cost of a new hall somewhere between $3.4 and $3.9 million. The fire department has put about $100,000 in the pot and the town has pledged $900,000. Other donations equal about $58,000.

Meetings

The Oct. 25 meeting was the committee’s first public meeting.

“All meetings now will be public,” said Boyd. “We did have an in-camera meeting at the beginning just to update the committee on the land purchase but the rest of the meeting was a public meeting. Right now we don’t have set dates for it but when we do have a date it gets published to our website along with the agenda.”

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