Published on September 28th, 2015 | by the Flesherton1
Renovations – they always cost more and take longer. That rule of thumb seems to be holding true for Talisman Mountain Springs Inn also, as it pushes the opening date for its main building into winter.
The Inn comprises three buildings and Brian Ellis, lead partner of the group that now owns Talisman, says the Inn will open in stages, as the renovations to separate buildings are completed.
“Our schedules have been hurt by so many hiccups with Buildings 1 and 2,” he says. “We expected some mold and water damage, as the buildings had been left for more than three years.” However, Ellis says that much of the construction, insulation and fire safety in all the buildings was not even up to standard code from when the previous owners operated the inn. “Everywhere we turn there’s another issue,” he says.
Building 1 is the main lodge. It will house the convention centre, restaurant and some suites. It has also been the site of most of the major renovations. The building initially was constructed in 1960. The average insulation in Building 1 was about an R7 rating. Ellis says improving the insulation is important because a building that is not well insulated is extremely expensive to heat and cool and leaves the structure vulnerable to mold, rot and other decay related issues. With insulation and the new exterior, the overall insulation value will rise to over R22. Additionally, exterior windows and doors are being upgraded.
Extensive underground work was done to protect Building 1 from water penetration which has for many years affected it to the point of threatening the integrity of some of the structure. The new extensive drainage plan with damp-proofing and grading has been completed and engineer certified.
The interiors are undergoing a significant upgrade. The rooms were completely torn out including all of the bathrooms. They will be reconstructed to a 5 star hotel standard with new furnishings, spa-like bathrooms and elegant finishes. Also, the convention rooms are getting a facelift and the large room on the 2nd level above the restaurant will become an upscale ballroom with extensive renovations planned. The lower level room has been completely cleaned up and secured from future flooding.
“Realistically, Building 1 will be ready by early winter,” Ellis says. But Building 3, which will be home to the Nordic spa, has not really been touched yet. Late 2016 is now the scheduled opening date for this portion of the facility.
Ellis says he is well pleased with the restoration work for the golf course – including the greens and the irrigation. “The work is well under way and will be ready to play in spring, 2016.”
And, delays have not seemed to daunt community enthusiasm. “We’ve been approached by so many people already for bookings, for conferences and weddings … I could have been booked full for fall,” Ellis said in an interview with theFlesherton.ca
A “walk through” last Tuesday, September 22 with the architect and the municipal building inspector indicated that there are still some issues left, but overall he says, “I am very pleased with the success to date.”
Renovation hiccups aren’t the only surprise that Ellis has encountered. Recently, Talisman received its municipal water bill. “We got hit with a bill of almost $150,000 – and we haven’t even turned on a tap!”
“It is beyond belief,” Ellis says of the water bill. He says it is one of, if not the most expensive systems in the country. ”It’s not double the Markdale rate; it’s not even triple – it’s 10 times!” (Markdale has the only other municipal water system operating in Grey Highlands. Flesherton, for example, does not have municipal water.)
High water rates have plagued the Village of Kimberley and surrounding area since the municipal water delivery system was implemented. The explanation is that the system was “over built” with anticipation of residential and resort growth in the Beaver Valley. Instead, the few homes and businesses on the system have had to divide the operational costs, resulting in extraordinarily high water bills.
Indeed Ellis says it’s beyond bad news. “It’s unsustainable to do business with this water rate.”
“My first reaction was okay, I don’t want your water or sewage, I’ll do my own.” The property is a wealth of natural springs (hence the new name). “But apparently that’s not allowed if there is an existing municipal system in place,” Ellis says. But he hasn’t entirely ruled out that option, ”This is a unique situation,” Ellis says.
He did meet with Grey Highlands council to let them know that “it’s impossible to do business” at this rate. “Council has been receptive,” he said, striking a sub-committee to look at the issue. He is scheduled to meet with them again on Tuesday September 29.
The Talisman Mountain Springs Inn is important for the economic development of the area, Ellis says, as it will be the largest hotel and convention centre in the south Grey County region; a major employer and a major visitor draw.
Once the facility is completely open, there will be about 160 jobs created. And, “we we will be bringing so many people into the area – that’s good for everybody.”
A management company in Toronto has been contracted to handle the top-level operations of the Inn and once the Inn is ready to open, will be hiring an on-site management team. It is possible that there will be a job fair later this year.