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Repairs at RMG costly in many ways

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

Recent repairs at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery may have cost more than just dollars.

A recent city report details that not only is the gallery requesting $262,000 to cover the costs of repairs to the building’s heating and boiler system, but the loss of the humidification system has resulted in an unknown amount of damage to archived pieces of art.

Following a carbon monoxide leak in July, Enbridge issued a series of seven warning tags relating to the art gallery’s heating and humidification systems, resulting in gas to the building being shut off at the meter.

This meant the systems used to preserve more than 4,500 pieces of art stored in the gallery’s vault were put at risk as they require certain temperatures and levels of humidity to stay in top condition.

Not only that, but the lack of repairs resulted in the cancellation of a major gallery exhibit from the Montreal-based Musee d’art contemporain that had garnered national attention and could have had a big economic impact on not only the RMG, but the city as well.

The report details states that confusion with the repairs as the reason for the delay in getting the systems up and running and the resulting exhibition cancellation.

“By this report, Enbridge was everything less than helpful. They were giving contradictory advice,” said Councillor Nancy Diamond.

According to the report, repairs began on July 22 to the building’s heating boilers, humidifier and hot water heaters.

However, this work was, “subsequently complicated by changing requirements from Enbridge, which caused schedule delays and increased costs to complete the work.”

Originally, the repairs were meant to be finished before the gallery’s big exhibition in October, but after meetings with Enbridge, no agreement could be settled as the gas supplier believed the systems still did not meet gas and building code relations.

It wasn’t until the end of September that a solution could be found, and not until the end of October that the boilers were booted up again. The humidifiers began operating again on Nov. 13.

In an emailed statement, Enbridge spokesperson Tanya Bruckmueller said the nature of the repairs at the RMG were complex.

“Because of this complexity, Enbridge worked diligently with the city and its contractors, as well as the TSSA, to ensure that they work met all applicable codes and regulations.  Enbridge does not create or revise these standards, and we remain committed to ensuring the safety of the public,” the statement reads.

Now, the costs are on the table and council isn’t willing to foot the entire bill.

The RMG has listed the costs at $262,000 for the repairs, but at a recent meeting of the corporate services committee, councillors felt not all the costs should be laid at council’s feet.

In particular, councillors said the large portion of costs associated with the loss of revenue from the cancelled exhibition, or additional repairs to the gallery’s water heaters were not the city’s burden.

“That is a cost of doing business, or unfortunately, a cost of business being cancelled,” Diamond said.

The funds were then amended with the final figure of $186,000 being set for the RMG. Council will vote on its final decision on Dec. 14.