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What you need to know about COVID-19: September 18, 2020
By David J. Shuman
Special to SaltWire Network
In front of the Col. James Layton Ralston Armoury in Amherst, Cumberland-Colchester MP Lenore Zann promised Thursday that the federal government would repair and reopen the historic building.
The Department of National Defence closed the armoury with no warning on Tuesday, citing "structural concerns."
Opposition to the government’s decision to close the armoury mounted quickly. Local MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin organized the rally, which drew more than 200 community members, veterans and politicians.
Zann said that although the building will remain closed to the public for now, there will come a day when it is opened again.
“DND will pay for repairs of the building,” Zann said. “I don’t know when, but I have in writing that it will happen.”
The last-minute decision came as a relief to many in the community.
“It’s because of the support of the community that we can see change,” Smith-McCrossin told the crowd. “After hearing that there was a rally planned, DND seemed to change their minds and claim that it was a temporary closure.”
Smith-McCrossin offered special thanks to the staff at the North Nova Scotia Highlanders Regimental Museum.
“It’s because of the leadership and drive of these people that we were able to mobilize and come together as community,” the MLA said.
John Wales, president of the Amherst Armouries Plus Society, said his group had been waiting for three years for a report on the safety of the building.
“The repairs will go a long way, but we can’t keep waiting around with no answers,” Wales said.
Zann said that since she was notified of the closure by museum officials, she’s been busy ensuring that the community wouldn’t lose the building.
“I’ve called the Prime Minister’s Office and told them that this can’t happen in this community,” Zann said. “I told DND that we need a formal study and report to know what makes this building unsafe – we don’t even know that right now.”
Zann said that she is also looking to talk to government investment agencies to repurpose the historic building.
“We already did it in Truro with the Normal Collage,” said Zann. “When we come together, we can make something that can bring the community together and revitalize. We’re looking to work with public and private groups to build this into a community fixture.”
Museum curator Ray Coulson said he is hopeful for the future of the armoury with the announcement from Zann and the good turnout for the rally.
“It was built by Amherst people with Amherst materials,” Coulson said. “We’re going to ensure that we have everything in writing before we go back in, and we’re going to make sure we do this right."