IHS and Alberni ink contract to operate McLean Mill

Port Alberni city council signed a new five-year contract with the West Vancouver Island Industrial Heritage Society to operate McLean Mill.

Role clarity, simplified financial structure and a dispute resolution process are just a few of the elements in the new contract between the city and Western Vancouver Island Industrial Heritage Society to operate McLean Mill.

The new agreement, made public Feb. 27, is five years in length with an option for another five years.

The agreement also provides improved equity for both parties with liability and insurance costs.

The issue has its roots in a 2010 council request for a staff report that examined separating McLean Mill and the Alberni Valley Museum. The city has called on the IHS to manage the heritage site since 1999 as part of its contract with Parks Canada.

Coun. Jack McLeman spoke in favour of the motion. But he asked for a codicil requiring the hiring of a person who would specifically market the mill and create new revenue streams.

“I for one don’t want to see the mill closed,” McLeman said. “Volunteers can only take it so far.”

City manager Ken Watson said that the amendment wasn’t necessary, that the IHS can hire such a person within the existing contract’s framework.

Watson cautioned that the framework doesn’t include a budget, and that it was premature to engage in budget deliberations in advance of the city’s five-year plan discussions.

An option considered was having the city promote the mill by tacking the duty onto the plate of the economic development manager.

The mill needs to move into a more business-like direction and soon, Coun. Rob Cole said. Doing so will begin lessening the financial burden on taxpayers, he added.

IHS spokesperson Hugh Grist said that the society reviewed the contract and was happy with the way it was.

“We’re more comfortable with the equity positions and the liability.”

reporter@albernivalelynews.com