IHS appeals to Alberni over budget shortfall

Alberni's IHS may terminate its contract with McLean Mill if it can't work a deal with the city to cover a $70,000 budge shortfall by fall.

The matter regarding McLean Mill’s $70,000 budget shortfall hasn’t reached the end of the tracks just yet.

Port Alberni City Council last week authorized city staff to issue the mill’s first cheque in June. City Manager Ken Watson was also tasked with meeting with the society to discuss the mill’s business plan and city assistance options.

Industrial Heritage Society members and city officials have initiated the discussions.

The issue arose when council adopted the mill’s budget. There was a gap in communication when the Industrial Heritage Society requested an additional $70,000 for insurance, track usage, utilities, and alarm monitoring.

The budget was approved for $235,000, which didn’t include the extra $70,000.

At council’s May 28 meeting, city economic development manager Pat Deakin admitted to being the source of the communication breakdown.

“I dropped the ball on that one,” he said.

The mixup could have deeper ramifications. In a May 23 letter to council, IHS director Hugh Grist said the parties can choose to deal with the issue now or be compelled by necessity to do so later.

If revenues are in a deficit position by mid -September “we will have to return to council for assistance,” Grist wrote.

“The society is not in a position to apply for loans at financial institutions to cover these possible deficits.”

If the mill’s future doesn’t appear better by September, officials will be forced to pull the pin.

“The society will invoke clause 2.2 of the contract and give 180 days notice of termination,” Grist wrote.

reporter@albernivalleynews.com