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$60,000 security fence going up around old hospital site

RLP Security Services Ltd., retained to monitor the former General Hospital site, stopped providing security there last month

Sixteen months after Italo Ferrari controversially used the phrase "concentration camp" to describe what the old Sault Area Hospital would look like if securely fenced, the waterfront site is about to be securely fenced.

Winmar, a property restoration company acting on Ferrari's behalf, has obtained a building permit for a $60,000 security fence around the decrepit property at 941 Queen St. East.

A Woodbridge, Ont. businessman, Ferrari is the general manager and public face of Leisure Meadows Community Living Inc., which owns the former General and Plummer Hospital sites.

At a city council meeting on Dec. 12, 2022, Mayor Matthew Shoemaker expressed concern about numerous break-ins at the old hospital buildings.

"Why not hire more security?" the mayor asked him.

"Well, how many security can I hire?" Ferrari replied.

"As much security as required to secure the building," Shoemaker said.

"You know what?" Ferrari told the mayor. "Maybe I have to come back to your office, Your Worship, and ask for a permit to put a fence around the building and close it off like a concentration camp. I don't know what else I can do."

Disgusted by Ferrari's disrespect, Ward 3 Coun. Angela Caputo and Ward 5's Coun. Corey Gardi then walked out of the council chambers.

Two days later, Shoemaker issued a statement accusing Ferrari of demonstrating "a stunning lack of self-awareness" during his 50-minute appearance before council, specifically referencing the concentration camp remark.

"During Monday evening’s debate on the issue of the property standards of the old General Hospital, the owner’s representative, Italo Ferrari, stated that because of the difficulties he has had securing the old General Hospital from continued breaking and entering, he would need to consider erecting a ‘10 foot fence to close it off like a concentration camp.'"

"The ignorance of this particular comment is astonishing to the point of requiring a forceful condemnation," the mayor said.

"Nazis used concentration camps to commit genocide. To use the atrocities of the Holocaust in a debate over the proper maintenance standards of a decrepit building shows a complete lack of dignity."

"I’ve asked staff not to communicate with Mr. Ferrari or any representative of his unless and until an apology is provided by him," Shoemaker said.

Ferrari swiftly responded with a written apology.

"My comment that erecting a fence to secure the property may resemble a ‘concentration camp’ was inappropriate and offensive, particularly to members of the Jewish community," he said.

"I sincerely regret that suggestion."

"I was wrong in my selection of words at that moment, and I assure you it will not happen again."

Since then, as SooToday's James Hopkin has extensively documented, Ferrari and the city have shifted their battles to the courts.

In May 2023, Leisure Meadows applied to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice for an injunction blocking the city’s enforcement of provisions within its property bylaw regarding vacant, demolished and damaged buildings. 

The Leisure Meadows application for an injunction was dropped earlier this month, Hopkin reported.

RLP Security Services Ltd., retained by Leisure Meadows to monitor the former General Hospital site, stopped providing security there on March 16.

Publicly available records from the provincial land registry office show that Leisure Meadows acquired the former Sault Area Hospital site in 2019 for a combined $1.3-million: $450,000 for the old General Hospital site and $850,000 for the Plummer site.

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David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans seven decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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