© Photo special to The Guardian
Stompin' Tom Connors.
SKINNERS POND - It was supposed to incorporate Stompin’ Tom Connors’ boyhood home and the Skinners Pond school house with a brand new 4,000-square-foot multi-use cultural centre.
But what the Stompin’ Tom Connors Commemoration Project at Skinners Pond will now become is very much up in the air.
Reached Wednesday for an update on the $1.94-million project, Tignish Initiatives general manager Anne Arsenault said the development is currently on hold, awaiting a consultant’s evaluation report due by the end of February.
The evaluation was triggered when Tignish Initiatives learned in late November that an anticipated $350,000 grant from Canadian Heritage was not happening.
“We were pretty hopeful that it was going to come through, but it didn’t,” Arsenault said.
Asked if the project still has the same nearly $2-million budget to work with, the Tignish Initiatives general manager responded, “That would be probably in our dreams now.”
She said the initiative is in danger of having other funding sources scaled back.
“We had signed contribution agreements with the other funders, but everything hinges on everything else, right?
“So whenever we found out officially that we were not getting the Canadian Heritage funding, then we had to put a hold on the work that we were doing and we had to re-evaluate the whole project.”
“We had signed contribution agreements with the other funders, but everything hinges on everything else, right?" Tignish Initiatives general manager Anne Arsenault
She said that was a stipulation of the funders.
Mark Doyle of Tignish, a friend of Stompin’ Tom’s growing up, expressed disappointment the planned project in his native Skinners Pond is in jeopardy.
He had attended the August 2015 funding announcement and was looking forward to the special recognition for the Canadian singing icon.
“I felt for sure it was going to go ahead,” he said.
“It’s like one step forward, two steps backwards,” said Arsenault in admitting her board is frustrated by the setback.
“All we can say at this point is it will be scaled back. We just don’t know how much yet.”
When the project was announced, then-Egmont MP Gail Shea indicated she had been working on bringing the project forward for 19 years.
Indeed, Arsenault said it was on Tignish Initiatives’ file when she joined the organization 13 years ago.
Even if a scaled back project goes ahead, Arsenault said the grand opening they had been planning for Canada Day 2016, is definitely out of the question.