Justin Campese (left) and a co-worker remove a window during the CPR station restoration.

Justin Campese (left) and a co-worker remove a window during the CPR station restoration.

Job training program boosts Nelson CPR station restoration

The CPR station project has created jobs and training in restoration techniques.

This is the third in a series of three articles about the innovative heritage restoration techniques at the CPR station in Nelson.The first was about the restoration of the heritage windows, and the second was about the innovative design for heating and insulation.

Four years ago, Justin Campese spent ten months taking paint off the siding at the old CPR station with a heat gun and a putty knife.

“It was hot. We had to be suited up, wearing respirators through the heat of the summer. Up under the canopy the heat from the heat gun was trapped up there, plus we had 33 degree temperatures.”

For his first four months, Campese was working under the provincial government’s Job Creation Partnerships program run locally by the Kootenay Career Development Society. To qualify, job-seekers have to have been on EI sometime during the previous three years. Campese, like the rest of his crew, got the maximum EI benefit of $525 per week.

A sense of hometown accomplishment

Despite the tedious work, he stuck with it because “I liked the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction at the end of the day. It’s something that is going to last for years to come, in my hometown. I used to look at this building when I was a kid and want to throw rocks at it — it was this crusty looking old run down building, weeds growing, windows all boarded up, covered with cobwebs.”

After his four months on the program, the Chamber of Commerce (which owns the building) hired Campese as a foreman. He was still scraping paint, but also supervising a crew of six others doing the same thing.

After the paint was all removed, Campese remained a foreman and moved to other tasks at the station, starting with interior demolition: removing all the old plaster, lath, drywall, and flooring, and then structural repair.

“That was one of my favourite times working on the project, when we had the building jacked up, sitting on stilts to replace rotten structural members. I spent two months in the crawlspace to jack up the building and straighten it out.”

Saving $1 million

The restoration project, run by the chamber of commerce, has used a combination of contracted workers and people from the job creation program.

Tom Thomson, the chamber’s executive director, says the project would have taken many more years without the job creation program. As it stands, he says, the building will be ready for occupancy in the late fall of this year.

He says that for the past four years the job creation program has provided up to six full time employees whose wages the chamber didn’t have to pay. He estimates that the $3.5 million dollar project may have cost $1 million more without the program.

Apprenticeship and more learning

Campese’s next step was to begin his carpentry apprenticeship, now almost finished, at the CPR site under the tutelage of Joern Wingender, the contractor supervising the restoration. That meant one of the objects of the job creation program had been satisfied: Campese had used the program to move himself into full time work and further training, while working on a community project.

In addition to construction work, he says he’s learned a lot about supervision of employees, and he’s needed this skill because the job creation program has taken on “a wide range of characters, men and women, different backgrounds, all different mental capacities. There have been some challenging people to work with. My crew now is great, they know what I want and they can get it done.”

A stepping stone

Wingender says about 40 people have gone through the program and that Campese is one of many success stories.

He says Anton Horvath is another. Horvath started out scraping paint but “because of his attention to detail we trained him in window restoration.”

Horvath is now supervising the restoration of dozens of heritage windows at the station.

“The job creation program is doing what it is supposed to do,” says Thomson. “It’s helping a community project move forward and provide necessary skills training to get people into the work force.”