South Glengarry, Parks Canada in talks to protect Sir John Johnson House

In this December 2017, file photo, the municipal garage on William Street in Williamstown, Ont. The township will start formal talks with Parks Canada to partner on a water storage tank on the property. The water storage tank is part of the renovations to convert the garage into a fire station while Parks Canada would like to tie in to protect the Sir John Johnson House next door. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

WILLIAMSTOWN – South Glengarry will start formal talks with Parks Canada to protect a national historic site as it renovates the old municipal garage into its new fire station in Williamstown.

Fire Chief Dave Robertson told council last week the partnership discussion started informally as the fire department was doing an inspection at the Sir John Johnson Manor House on William Street – a National Historic Site.

The home of loyalist Sir John Johnson, built from 1784-1792, is one of the oldest homes in Ontario.

“The entirety of the basement of that museum, of that house, are water storage tanks,” Robertson explained to council last week. “Currently the system needs to be completely overhauled and replaced. They’re unsure and highly doubt they will be able to use the same type of system.”

The home’s sprinkler system, fed by the water tanks that were installed in the 1980s, protects the house from fire because Williamstown doesn’t have a municipal water system.

The township is looking at a proposal to have Parks Canada tie into a municipal water storage tank that will be on the neighbouring municipal garage property when its renovated into the Williamstown fire station.

Robertson believes there will be additional costs and capacity needed for the system. “All of those costs, it would be of my opinion, would be borne of Parks Canada. Hopefully there would be some cost savings with some shared usage and maybe future annual fees for that connection.”

Council agreed to allow Robertson to proceed with more serious talks with Parks Canada.

“I see this as a win-win for township and for Parks Canada. I think we can help each other out…it may help with our costs a bit and it may help with their costs a bit. I’m glad to see this partnership moving forward,” Coun. Martin Lang said.

While supporting it, Deputy Mayor Lyle Warden’s only concern was liability for the municipality should there be a fault with the system. Chief Robertson says any agreement would protect the township from liability.

The township has budgeted $600,000 this year for the building renovation, the underground water storage tank and equipment.

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