In November the Western Vancouver Island Industrial Heritage Society (IHS) experienced an unexpected financial shortfall of $55,000.
The society asked Port Alberni City Council for the missing funds to cover the 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.
Plans for a new kitchen fell through when the seller backed out, therefore the IHS had 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 in 2016 that was unplanned for.
Mayor Mike Ruttan said council has already emptied their contingency fund to pay for problems involving the mill and steam train—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.
Beginning on Jan. 1 a new board of management for McLean Mill took over direction of the mill from the IHS.
Being a National Historic Site, Ruttan said nothing physically can change at McLean Mill because the city has an agreement to preserve it until a time between 2028 and 2035.
Port Alberni Chamber of Commerce executive director Bill Collette spoke on behalf of the McLean Mill Society during the Chamber of Commerce dinner meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 30, and brought forward some of his ideas for the mill.
“We’d like to see it evolve into more of a visual environment,” Collette said. “We’d like to see it open to the public.”
A food services program, said Collette, would be necessary for year-round events.
“I believe that food services are absolutely critical to the future of it,” he said.
In December the city agreed to spend $25,000 to help bring food services to McLean Mill following a recommendation brought forward by the mill’s board of directors.
In addition to the new board of management at the mill, the search is on for an executive director.
Read more on McLean Mill in 2016 here: