By Scott Costen
About 200 people came to the North Queens fire hall last night looking for answers. Allan Mansfield appeared to give them one.
“If everything goes according to (plan) … we really hope to be able to have fuel service back in Caledonia by May long weekend,” Mansfield announced during the meeting, which was organized by the North Queens Board of Trade after the closure of Caledonia’s only gas station.
Mansfield, who owns the local Home Hardware Building Centre, warned there is “still a long way to go” before the possible installation of gas and diesel pumps at his business. Speaking to media after the meeting, he said finding “lending partners” would be a key component of getting the project off the ground.
“We’ve been looking for years for something to add to our existing business,” he said about potentially adding fuel to Mary Lake Home Hardware’s offerings. “I think it would be outstanding for our community and our business.”
Board chair Laura-Lee Johnson said she was pleased with the meeting and excited about Mansfield’s announcement. “I’m just completely overwhelmed with the turnout that we got,” she said. “I think Allan has done his homework and I think that he has been working quietly in the background for weeks now. I think he has a very concrete plan.”
Johnson opened the meeting with a stern reality check after the closure last month of Noah’s Convenience, the only gas station in the Caledonia area.
“Without a reliable source of gas, our community is now in what I would consider a crisis situation,” she told the audience. Businesses, residents and tourists alike will be affected, she said. “We also have a lot of seniors who don’t travel distances anymore. This is going to impact everybody.”
A range of possible gas delivery models were discussed during the meeting, including a gas cooperative and an unmanned fuel pump. However, Mansfield’s plan is the only one currently being worked on.
The nearest gas station for Caledonia residents is now almost 30 km away in Greenfield. For communities further north — such as Northfield, New Grafton and Kempt — the distance is even greater.
Local municipal councillor Gil Johnson, who is married to Laura-Lee, described gas and diesel pumps as an “essential service” for North Queens. Community buy-in will be the key to success for any new venture, he said. “The more we fragment, the more that business case gets fragmented.”