A financial shortfall has prompted the Western Vancouver Island Industrial Heritage Society (IHS) to ask Port Alberni city council for $55,000 to cover unexpected costs in their 2016 budget.
In a letter to the mayor and council, members of the IHS stated that the largest impact to the budget was the commitment by a new advisory committee to purchase a new kitchen for McLean Mill.
“The IHS did not initiate any of the kitchen renovations or any of the plans to change the kitchen,” Ken Rutherford, acting McLean Mill manager told council on Monday night.
“Through the new McLean Mill Advisory Committee that kitchen was purchased and with us being the legal entity we took under the advisement and signed the contract and purchased the kitchen with the understanding that within a few months it would be up and running and we would have a chef to run the kitchen.”
As of Dec. 31, the IHS will no longer manage McLean Mill and a new society will take over.
Rutherford said the IHS expected the new kitchen would create revenue to cover much of the financial shortfall because it would be a better environment for people to come and have lunch or a light dinner with an expanded menu.
Plans for the new kitchen fell through when the seller backed out, therefore the IHS has no funds to hire people to install the kitchen.
In addition, a previous volunteer cook at McLean Mill asked to be compensated which cost the IHS an additional $13,000 this year that was unplanned for.
All food had to be prepared off site and brought to the mill which created a limited menu at the cafe. As a result, food sales were down compared to previous years.
Other factors in the revenue losses were the closure of Chase & Warren Winery, which meant the IHS could no longer feature their wine trains.
In capital funding, the IHS received $30,000 from the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District and has spent $21,515 to date on the kitchen, with an additional $15,000 going to the kitchen vendor at the end of the year. The completion of the new kitchen will become the responsibility of the new society in 2017, which is estimated to be $37,000 plus the outstanding final payment for the kitchen equipment.
“There were things beyond our control that created this shortfall,” Rutherford said. “We don’t appreciate when council comes back and says it’s our fault when something goes wrong.”
Other projects undertaken this year at the mill were the planned repairs to the roof of the R.B. McLean house and upgrade to the site’s electrical system to allow for Christmas lighting and other entertainment. The replacement of a failed furnace in the Visitor Centre at the mill was unplanned.
The IHS state in their letter that total capital expenditures for the current year were $35,670 which would have been sufficient without the unexpected revenue losses.
Mayor Mike Ruttan says council has already emptied their contingency fund to pay for problems at the mill—including $7,500 for the roundhouse roof and close to $118,000 for a new fire pump.
“The reality is we don’t have enough money left in the city’s contingency fund to give you the money that you’re requesting and never before has the city been in this position,” Ruttan said.