Not sure this train is actually going to go anywhere.

No station for it to stop at in Burlington.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  February 2, 2011  –  Well – there is a committee – but don’t expect that committee to keep the Freeman Station in Burlington.  It is being led by council members Blair Lancaster and Marianne Meed Ward but they aren’t going to lead – they are going to facilitate.

“It is the community that is going to make this happen” declared Meed Ward at a very short city council meeting last Monday night.

Meed Ward’s comments followed a delegation by Jane Irwin who explained that the Save our Station group that was operational from 1993 to 1997 was disbanded when CNR, the people who owned the station, sold it. 

There was a time when the Burlington station served the community just the way the Aurora station served it’s community.  Can Burlington do what Aurora has done?
There was a time when the Burlington station served the community just the way the Aurora station served it’s community. Can Burlington do what Aurora has done?

Irwin explained some of the history and  said that the  ‘what to do with the Freeman station’ question has been out there for some tine – there is reference to the station in a 1985 Waterfront Report.

The Committee that Meed Ward and Lancaster has formed will meet in February to see what the interest level is but they don’t have a lot of time to waste. There is a time limit to the effort to get back to Council with an update. Council agreed to halt any demolition efforts until the community had one last chance to save the station.  Council is expecting an update at the end of April and appeared willing to give an extension then if there were positive signs that something was going to get done.

 A number of months ago city hall asked for expressions of interest from people who wanted to do something with the station and while there was some response there were complaints that the requirement to post a very large bond deterred at least one group from taking up the opportunity.  City staff admitted that the requirement for a bond was perhaps not the best idea.

At that Council meeting, Paul Sharman, Ward 5, patiently and graciously asked all the people who delegated at the meeting that if whatever group was formed was unable to come back to council with a solution then  would they give up and let the life of the Freeman Station come to an end, and each, reluctantly agreed that this was the last chance for the station.

It was further agreed at that meeting that the group was not to revisit any of the places that Council had already turned down.  This had to be a fresh approach.

 Council had given up – much to their everlasting shame – and if the community does manage to come up with the solution there had better not be a single politician in sight when they cut that ribbon.  Absolutely disgraceful behaviour on the part of councils going back as far as at least 1985.   The various historical groups in the city don’t deserve much in the way of pats on the back either.

Irwin spoke to Council of three reports that had been prepared, one of which Irwin thought would be very valuable – Meed Ward had not heard of it and wanted to know where a copy could be obtained.  Irwin advised Meed Ward that the document was in the Historical Society collection of documents at the library.

Irwin advised Council that the building could probably be designated but that it had to be on a site and not sitting in a parking lot – which is where it is now..  “The building can’t be homeless” advised Irwin – but once it has a home – it can be moved to some other location.

 o it would seem that the first step is to find a decent location for the building where it can be worked on and refurbished.  Meed Ward appears to expect the community to join in with the actual refurbishing and renovation of the structure.

Irwin pointed out that Aurora had managed to save its old railway station and that the Burlington station was an even better structure.  Their station was just as much as mess as our station is” said Irwin implying that if we can get our act together we can have a beautifully restored building too.

Aurora managed to save its old railway station.
Aurora managed to save its old railway station.

“The overwhelming wish of the community” said Irwin,  “is to find a home for the station and save it.

As Irwin was preparing to end her delegation Lancaster recruited her to work on the committee that is being formed.   So there is now at least four members of the community prepared to do something to save the station.

Later in the meeting when Council members had an opportunity to make comments on issues Meed Ward advised Council that she was in the process of setting up a Citizens Committee and that she has had many expressions of interest and several hundred dollars in pledges.

There will be a web site set up for this initiative (of course) and then Meed Ward asked for volunteers who could help with restoration work, grant writing, serving on a Board. 

Looks like a good deal as fire wood.
Looks like a good deal as fire wood.

Meed Ward advised that she and Lancaster would be stepping into the background and serving as facilitators

Lancaster did her usual positive twist and advised that there were different options being considered and all seemed very viable – but we didn’t hear a word on what some of those options might be.  There’s that transparency – accountability deficiency again

The federal Stimulus money that was to be used for the station went to paving a road somewhere else in the city, so other than $145,000. that is in a fund at city hall – there is no money available to do any reconstruction.  It doesn’t look very promising.

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