Heritage advocate wants council to take over jail

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After the issue went quiet in recent years, a local heritage advocate is suggesting Chatham-Kent council have another look at taking over the former jail property.

Hans Van Der Doe, a longtime supporter of the building, said he was recently able to access the facility with a few other concerned citizens to inspect it.

In a Facebook post, he said “our old building is holding strong, and it wouldn't take much to fix this place up.

“The province purchased it off of us for $1 in 1973 ... I will donate the dollar for (its) return to us.”

Van Der Doe told The Daily News that the law books in the library of the property are particularly significant.

“I need to keep these books in context,” he said. “I think that time capsule should be kept there.”

The Stanley Avenue facility, which housed inmates for about 160 years, was officially closed in 2014 with operations transferred to the South West Detention Centre in Windsor.

The Chatham-Kent OPP is still using a section of the building built in the 1950s. The 1849 section consists of the original courthouse and jail. Court services were moved to the current Grand Avenue West location in 2003.

“(Council) could purchase that 1849 section back for us,” Van Der Doe said. “Give the responsibility of that building to the municipal heritage committee.

“Then form a committee, which I am willing to sit on … to find uses, funding and everything else for that building, so it does not become a burden on our community.”

He added that other individuals have expressed an interest in sitting on such a committee.

However, Chatham Coun. Doug Sulman said he's skeptical council would want to take over the building.

“I can't imagine that they would agree to it,” he said. “It's a provincial responsibility. Do we have the money for that? I'd be quite surprised.

“You'd have to have a use and be able to maintain it.”

Sulman said as far as he was aware, nothing had changed with the status of the facility.

He admitted the issue has “fallen off the radar” compared to previous years.

“Do we really need more buildings? I don't know,” he said. “It may well be at some future point in time, but again you'd need senior level funding to do that kind of thing.”








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