The Town of Bracebridge is currently in the process of reviewing the 2023 budget, and if all goes ahead as planned both Bird’s Mills Mews and Woodchester Villa will see considerable repairs and upgrades.
Town councillors recently discussed the proposed budget during their general committee meeting and questioned what the money will be used for.
Geoff Carleton, the director of public works, said the bulk of the Woodchester funds, $100,000 will be used for floor joist repairs. He said numerous repairs over the years have caused some load limitations for the historic building.
Another $10,000 will be set aside for various other upgrades and $60,000 is currently budgeted for the mud room replacement.
Built in 1882, Woodchester Villa is one of the oldest residences in the Town of Bracebridge. In 1978, Woodchester became a designated heritage building under the Ontario Heritage Act, and in 1981 the Ontario Heritage Trust secured a heritage easement on the building. The building has suffered significant damage over the years, forcing its closure at various points. The building was also closed for the past two years due to the pandemic but re-opened in May of 2022.
Carleton informed councillors that the $175,000 set aside for the Bird Mills Mews would be used for heated walkways that connect Bird’s Mills to the parking lot and the garden out front, as well as signage and electrical work.
Bird Mill Mews was an integral part of the Bird Woollen Mills, established by Henry J. Bird in 1872, to store raw wool and manufacture woollen products. By the 1940s, the building was closed and remained virtually untouched until 1993, when it was completely renovated by the Town. Bird Mill Mews now houses the Bracebridge Chamber of Commerce offices, Riverwalk Restaurant and Visitor Information Centre.
A significant revitalization of the property was launched last year.
There was also some question about a budget item setting aside a maximum contribution of $25,000 in each of the next three years for Muskoka and Area Ontario Health Team’s hiring of a dedicated health human resources recruiter. The other Muskoka municipalities would also be contributing to the fund.
Coun. Mark Quemby questioned whether the money couldn’t be better spent elsewhere in local healthcare. In light of the shortage of doctors and nurses across the province, Quemby wondered how successful a recruitment drive would be.
“Are we shaking a bush that has no fruit on it?” he said.
CAO Stephen Rettie said the recruiter will help promote Muskoka as a lifestyle.
“The pool of physicians is small but they are finding it’s not about compensation, it’s about lifestyle and Muskoka has a lot of offer in terms of lifestyle,” he said. “It’s well known Ontario has a physician shortage. In the meantime do we sit back or put our best foot forward?”
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