Brodie and Kylie Marshall of Port Coquitlam cover their ears as the whistle blows during a steam donkey demonstration at McLean Mill National Historic Site during the antique truck show over Labour Day weekend.

Alberni still no closer to fixing McLean Mill dam

More meetings on the horizon between council and Industrial Heritage Society, minus city staff.

The controversy regarding costly repairs to the dam at the McLean Mill National Heritage Site has intensified, but the city is no closer to deciding how and when the work will be done.

In an unusual move, on Monday council voted to exclude staff from an upcoming meeting with the Industrial Heritage Society (IHS) regarding the repairs.

Council also debated how to ensure the work is done safely, without cutting corners.

Council is looking at two options for the dam, which has washed out several times: to rebuild the existing dam and fish ladder for $605,000, or to construct a diversion channel around the mill pond and dam for $552,000.

City engineer Guy Cicon and an outside consultant support the second option.

IHS members have offered to assist with the work, but “will not be responsible for any disputes that arise from claims of cost cutting and cheap labour.”

The projected cost of the repairs has exceeded earlier estimates, but city staff does not want to cut corners to save money.

“This needs to be turned over to the engineering department,” city manager Ken Watson said. “It is not something council should attempt to influence the outcome of. The provincial dam inspector must be satisfied the project is safe.”

Coun. Cindy Solda echoed this concern, saying she would hate to see a tourist injured, “because we just patched it up.”

Mayor John Douglas said council is overstepping its boundaries.

“We should be allowing the professionals involved here to make the decisions,” he said. “Our role is only to decide, can we afford it?”

Council voted to have an informal meeting with IHS members to discuss the repairs. However, four of the six councillors did not want staff, including Watson and Cicon, to attend.

“I think they [IHS] would feel more comfortable if it is a more informal meeting,” explained coun. Jack McLeman.

Solda and Douglas disagreed. “This is insulting and degrading to the staff we have,” Douglas said before council voted in favour.