Sidbrook dilemma persists

By Cecilia Nasmith

The closing of Sidbrook Private Hospital more than a dozen years ago continues to have a fall-out for the Town of Cobourg, as the grand heritage home it operated out of at 411 King St. W. remains vacant and deteriorating.

At this week's committee-of-the-whole session, council passed Councillor Nicole Beatty's motion to direct staff to provide a detailed plan on how the town might execute a Property Standard Order on the building, but Councillor Aaron Burchat provided details on what is being done at this time.

One of the big issues is individuals breaking into the building, Burchat said. When he suggested fencing it off, he received the legal opinion that, if the fence had any locking mechanism, the town takes on liability. As a result, they rely on such piecemeal measures as boarding up any window, door or entry point when they learn it has been used to break into the building.

Now protection-services coordinator, Burchat was planning and development services coordinator in the last session of council. He announced his intention to bring up the matter at the May Police Services Board meeting, in hopes of possibly getting enhanced patrols, particularly during school hours and other times known to be risky in terms of break-ins.

“If you go by there before or after school, you see a lot of cars and individuals in the parking lot,” he said.

There is an order in place that allows weekly inspections, Burchat added, but he's not sure what else can be done.

“I have thrown around some other ideas, but it always comes down to the town taking on more liability.”

“I agree they have pretty much been doing all they possibly can,” Deputy Mayor Suzanne Seguin said to Beatty when she made her motion.

“Is there something you are anticipating that has not been done?”

“Unfortunately, it has come before another term of council to talk about this jewel of a building – the legal options with minimal risk and impact to taxpayers, what we are willing to do to preserve and protect heritage landmarks while, more importantly, ensuring the safety of the citizens,” Beatty said.

Chief administrative officer Stephen Peacock mentioned one thing council might wish to undertake, but it should happen fairly quickly.

“We have some idea of the costs but, until there's a full engineering report on what work need to be done – and there is a cost for that work. That will take some time, and there will e a cost associated,” Peacock said.

“This report is not going to happen overnight. Probably an interim report would be the best idea.”