Fleming residents will have a chance to meet face-to-face with two men convicted of burning down the town’s historic elevator.
The elevator, which was built in 1895, was oldest elevator in Canada still on its original site and the people of Fleming had high hopes of turning the historic site into a tourist attraction.
The elevator was burned to the ground on Feb. 9, 2010, before it could be opened as a tourist attraction following extensive fundraising and renovations.
Two men have been convicted of breaking into the elevator around 3 a.m. that night, spreading fuel, and lighting the fire that destroyed the elevator.
At a mediation session on Thursday, Nov. 28, Charles Dron and Joey Yates will meet with people in the community to answer questions and hear from community members about the impact of their crime.
Yates, from Oak Lake, was sentenced in Manitoba to two years less a day, and ordered to pay $30,000 restitution for his part in the arson. He served 18 months of his sentence.
Dron, from Miniota, pleaded guilty in provincial court in Moosomin and was given a one-year suspended sentence, and was also ordered to pay $30,000 restitution.
The town hasn’t received any restitution from either of the convicted arsonists, and is considering civil action to try to recover the funds.
As part of their sentences, both men were ordered to take part in a mediation session in Fleming.
“The idea is that they will come and face the victims of their crime,” said Fleming Mayor Phil Hamm.
“They will have to listen to how their actions impacted people. Some people will have questions for them, and some may want to make statements.
“Others might voice some anger, but the conduct has to be civil.”
The mediation sessions will be facilitated by Westman Mediation Services co-ordinator Travis Blaine.
The mediation sessions are set for Thursday, Nov. 28 at Fleming’s Community Hall. The two convicted arsonists will appear separately, Charles Dron at 7:15 p.m. and Joey Yates at 8:30 p.m.
Hamm says he hopes that people who were impacted by the destruction of the elevator will be able to get a sense of closure by participating in the mediation session.
“There were a lot of people impacted by this,” he says. “We want people who really did have a legitimate stake in the elevator to have a chance to face these two. That was a real asset to the community because it brought people to the community. Its loss impacted the Windsor Hotel and the photography gallery, that’s economic loss to them. “I’m hoping that we’ll get some closure. We never really had the opportunity through the criminal court system to be heard. This will provide everyone the opportunity at least to be heard.”
Hamm says he has questions he wants answered.
“There is something I would like to hear from them,” Hamm said. “What’s bothered me is why did they decide at that particular time to come out to Fleming and burn that elevator down? Why that elevator?
“It was three in the morning a cold night in February and they came out and lit fire to our elevator and I just want to know why. What was the motivation? I suspect that they were put up to it, that there was a suggestion to it, that there was another party involved. I want to hear the words come from these individuals’ mouths. I want to ask that question and see if people are satisfied with the answer.
“According to the Crown Prosecutor in Saskatchewan, they did it to impress a girlfriend. Why would burning any building down impress a girlfriend? Why that building? What was the impetus to come out and do that?”
Hamm said the loss of the historic elevator, which was being renovated as a tourist attraction, is still being felt in Fleming.
“The impact is always going to be felt,” Hamm says. “So many people worked so hard on fixing that elevator up, and it’s what our town was known for.
“If they’re serious about making restitution, I hope they can give us an idea how that’s going to take place, how they think they’ll be able to afford it.”
Anyone who is interested in speaking at the mediation session can contact Phil Hamm at 306-435-4140 or Travis Blaine at 204-727-1696.
Lots of work invested
Lots of work went into renovating the historic elevator.
The Fleming Historical Society is a group of volunteers that worked for years on renovating the historic Lake of the Woods elevator, with the assistance of the Saskatchewan Heritage Foundation, the Kaplan Foundation, the Lorne and Evelyn Johnson Foundation, local RMs, businesses and individuals.
This elevator was the oldest known wooden grain elevator, on its original site, in Canada. The unique design was a landmark on the prairie, located alongside Highway 1 and the CPR main line, five kilometres west of the Saskatchewan/ Manitoba border.
The Lake of the Woods company built the elevator in 1895 and during its 115- year lifetime it was also owned by Ogilvie Mills, Saskatchewan Wheat Pool and United Grain Growers.
The UGG ceased operations at Fleming in 1999 and, after several years of negotiations with the CPR, turned the building and the land it occupied over to the Town of Fleming in 2004.
Work on the preservation, restoration and conservation of the site began in 2005. By the end of the 2009 construction season only four days work on the cupola atop the elevator remained.
These final touches were scheduled to be done in the spring of 2010, with a grand opening planned for the Victoria Day long-weekend.
The Lake of the Woods grain elevator was both a provincial and federal heritage site, and the Heritage Architects Association of Saskatchewan had given the Fleming Historical Society an award for the renovation of the elevator.