Director and not volunteers to helm Alberni Valley museum

Port Alberni city council voted to keep the Alberni Valley Museum director's position and not replace it with a volunteer board.

A volunteer board won’t cut it for the Alberni Valley Museum so the director’s position is staying.

Museum executive director Jean McIntosh is retiring and Coun. Jack McLeman thought her position could be replaced with a curator and volunteer board. Other councillors disagreed however.

Council is already in the process of hiring a new director to replace McIntosh when she leaves in March.

Financial considerations play no small part in the matter, McLeman said. “We just borrowed a lot of money. Our taxes are in question because industry wants reductions,” he said. “When we have an opportunity to cost the city less we should look at it.”

There would be no problem filling a volunteer board and once it got to work “the fears people have about this motion won’t materialize,” McLeman said.

Speaking against the motion, Mayor John Douglas noted several points in City Manager Ken Watson’s report on the matter.

Eliminating the director’s position wouldn’t result in economic savings as fundraising and grant revenues losses would offset the savings in salary costs, the report noted. The quality and scope of heritage services would also be negatively impacted.

As well, the issue of not replacing the director’s position wasn’t discussed in either a recent management review or strategic planning undertaken by the city, both of which were adopted by council, Douglas said.

And the hiring process for a new director is already underway with 30 applications having been received. The process could be resuscitated in April after the budget discussions if the motion passed but the damage will have already been done. Candidates “wouldn’t consider applying for a position that the city is considering eliminating,” Douglas asked.

A volunteer board might go great guns for a year or two but would deflate after that, Coun. Dan Washington said. The facility needs someone with a degree who knows collections and exhibits, and who can pull in $200,000 in grant money like McIntosh did last year.

Coun. Cindy Solda asked about how other communities with volunteer museums operate. They operate, Watson said, but they aren’t the quality of Port Alberni’s facility.

“Volunteers are cute…but it’s much too important to do that,” Washington said about a volunteer board and curator.

Audience members Marta Williamson, Ken Rutherford and Pam Craig all spoke against the motion. Volunteer board are overworked as it is, Rutherford said. “You need a strong working board for this and I don’t think you’ll find that in this town,” he said.

Audience member Bob Haynes remembered city council undertaking a similar exercise more than 30 years ago and the results still stand today. “There was no possibility that a group of volunteers could operate the museum functionally,” Haynes said. “It doesn’t work — period.”

McLeman lamented the decision, saying it was unfortunate council didn’t get the opportunity to discuss the issue more thoroughly, especially considering budget deliberations are coming up.

Many councillors were unaware McIntosh was going to retire, he said. And the hiring process is already underway.  “We lost a chance to debate something because we didn’t have the facts.”

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

Twitter.com/AlberniNews

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