City budget – Museum and mill increases questioned

Public opinion was split about budget increases for the Alberni Valley Museum and McLean Mill.

Public opinion was split about budget increases for the Alberni Valley Museum and McLean Mill.

Officials from both bodies rolled out their budget requests to city councillors at their Monday budget meeting.

The museum is requesting a five per cent increase this year, going from $479,443 in 2011 to $548,180 in 2012.

The museum had 18,000 visitors last year and took in revenues of $79,000. Grants are fewer now and there is stiff competition for those that are left, museum director Jean McIntosh said.

This year, the museum has budgeted $21,660 for temporary exhibits and $10,500 for permanent exhibits. The exhibits include a web-based initiative, photographs from the Leonard Frank collection at the Nemetz Jewish Community Archives in Vancouver.

Port Alberni’s museum has run out of storage space and has applied for a federal grant to obtain a compact storage system.

Coun. Hira Chopra asked McIntosh about instituting a museum admission fee to boost revenue and lessen the burden on taxpayers. “If 18,000 visitors pay $1 to $2… no one should visit the museum for free,” Chopra said.

Visitorship, much of which comes from the library and pool, would drop if there were an admission fee, McIntosh said.

As well, the revenue generated by the fee would be eaten up by the cost of a new staff member that would have to be hired to deal with admissions.

The Valley is in tough times and cuts to the museum have to be considered, audience member Ian Thomas said.

“The expense exceeds the value; only 18,000 people a year—it’s not like we’re in competition with the (Royal) B.C. Museum,” Thomas said. “As our community’s population goes down we can’t sustain this kind of expense.”

Resident Larry McGifford countered that the museum is part of the community’s fabric and is a cultural investment by the city.

McLean Mill meanwhile has an overall budget of $548,000, which is underwritten with a combination of federal, municipal and regional funding and lumber sales.

From the city, the mill is asking for $225,000, or $10,000 less than last year, spokesperson Hugh Grist said.

The mill had 13,000 visitors last year. It’s projecting a drop in concession revenue this year, from $46,873 in 2011 to $37,500 this year. Slight increases are shown in custom wood sales and outside contributions.

Capital projects include operating a crew speeder, installing mill switches for the train, and completing the re-build of diesel locomotive No. 11.

There has been no major capital work done at the mill in 12 years, Grist said.

The mill has budgeted only $40,000 for marketing. The amount seems like a lot but ads in major publications can be costly. “We spent $3,000 on two ads in a national magazine — it’s not cheap,” Grist said.

Coun. Wendy Kerr asked about brochures on BC Ferries. Grist replied that it’s been tried but most of them end up thrown away.

Coun. Jack McLeman asked about the possibility of adding a campground to the mill site. Grist said he loved the idea.

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

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