Port Alberni’s heritage department sees most reductions in city budget

The city’s 2017-2021 budget draft shows an 11.9 percent reduction by 2021 to the city’s heritage department.

The department with the greatest reduction in service over the next five years, according to the city’s five-year financial plan draft, will be the city’s heritage department, mostly due to a reduction in the McLean Mill subsidy.

The city’s 2017-2021 budget draft shows an 11.9 percent reduction by 2021 to the city’s heritage department.

“The biggest piece is that our McLean Mill Society anticipates a 50 percent reduction in the McLean Mill subsidy over a five-year period,” said city CAO Tim Pley.

The estimated numbers that the draft budget currently shows start at $225,000 for the McLean Mill’s per year operating costs in 2017, tapering down to $110,000 by 2021. The city is looking at March 1 as a tentative date for a special budget meeting for the McLean Mill Society to outline their vision, mandate and budget to make these numbers final.

In addition, the city is anticipating redacting utility costs that the city pays for the Industrial Heritage Centre, the Train Station and the Round House.

“I’m suggesting that if the train station is going to be run by the McLean Mill Society, then they should be responsible for the utility costs,” said community services director Theresa Kingston during the Feb. 8 round table meeting.

The budget anticipates this reduction happening in 2019, giving time for agreements to be worked out with the McLean Mill Society.

Kingston also discussed the possibility of an increase in revenue to the museum in 2019, most likely through an admission fee. She estimated a $10,000 increase in revenue from this.

Councillor Sharie Minions questioned whether or not community members would still be willing to support the museum if a cost was involved.

“Part of what caused the discussion amongst our staff was the success of the aquarium,” said Kingston. “People are willing to buy family passes to go to the aquarium, pay a five dollar admission fee to go to the aquarium. I really do believe there are a lot of supporters of the museum in this community who would be willing to pay, whether it’s a membership pass or admission pass.”

The budget does not reflect a change in status of the museum, a concept which is currently being explored by city staff.

“It’s difficult doing the budgeting at this time on this facility,” said Kingston, “because the directive was to look at alternative governance models for the museum, which is a process we’re in.”

A report from a public input session on arts and culture has not been finished yet, she added.