Is it any surprise that the Industrial Heritage Society, which looks after McLean Mill, has come to the city, hat in hand, asking for $55,000 to help fulfill financial commitments?
Actually, yes it is.
The city last year created a McLean Mill advisory committee after public criticism over the way the mill has been run, and because of what the public views as cost overruns at the national historic site.
The committee got down to business, dissecting budgets and sprucing up the visitors’ centre, which included moving the café out of its former building and putting a larger souvenir shop in its place. It also made arrangements with a new food contractor who had been popular with city residents.
Even better, he was selling his kitchen equipment, and the mill was in need of new equipment.
Somewhere among all the signed contracts, though, the cook backed out of the deal, leaving the IHS with a storage area full of commercial kitchen equipment and no budget to install it—and their previously volunteer cook now wanted a salary, especially since food preparation had to take place off-site and food items trucked in to the mill. Food sales suffered as a result.
The IHS will finish its management of the mill at the end of December, and turn it over to the advisory committee.
In all likelihood, IHS members—many of them who volunteer hundreds of hours ensuring the mill and steam train continue to run—will be glad to wash their hands of this deal.
It seems the city’s new committee created this impossible deficit situation this year. It will be interesting to see what happens for 2017 and beyond.