Council approves emergency funding for museum

·3 min read

The Hinton Historical Society is receiving a total of $10,000 in bridge funding from the Town of Hinton to allow continued operations at the Northern Rockies Museum of Culture and Heritage from 2021 until April 2022.

Funds will come from the remaining $9,100 of the Community Grant Program/Automated Traffic Enforcement (ATE) Reserve and $900 from Council Donations.

The Hinton Historical Society presented to council at the Sept. 14 Standing Committee Meeting and explained that the 2021 municipal funding reduction from $85,000 to $65,000 for the museum contributed to the Society’s need for additional funding. Without bridge funding they would have to close their doors and end services for the remainder of the year and into April 2022. In April 2022 they would again receive Civic Agency funding from the Town.

“There are probably going to be some difficult decisions and discussions during budget [deliberations], especially as there is a motion on the table that brings their funding down to only $55,000 for 2022,” said Coun. Dewly Nelson. Hopefully through the partnership, the Town and the society can figure out what support is necessary to keep the asset moving forward, he added.

“I don’t want to see the programs and services that the museum offers be interrupted in the interim. I do look forward to [the new council] receiving some additional information regarding a sustainability plan or a recovery plan so that the long term future of the museum can be determined one way or another,” said Coun. Albert Ostashek. In the meantime, council is happy to provide bridge funding to keep the museum’s doors open.

Administration clarified that the new council will be made aware of the bridge funding when discussing their civic agency funding for 2022. Bridge funding would primarily be used to maintain services and staffing but the building would continue to be heated and maintained throughout the winter without those funds, clarified interim CAO Laura Howarth.

As requested by the Society, administration recommended the reinstatement of the $85,000 for a one-year period to allow the Society and Administration to work together to address issues surrounding funding from Yellowhead County, building ownership, and other funding options or expense reductions.

During their presentation on Sept. 14, Ross Risvold from the Society noted that the museum initially received $90,000 from the Town, which has been lowered to $65,000 and is not sustainable for their operations. Grants for summer students awarded to the Society had to be returned as matching funds were not available due to the 2021 reduction in municipal funding. The museum also lost $20,000 in revenue from casinos, $15,000 in revenue from bingo and pull tickets, and $5,000 in revenue from tours.

As cost saving measures, the society reduced permanent staff to one full time person at the museum, eliminated summer staff, stopped hosting free community events, and eliminated staff training opportunities.

While the Hinton museum offers more services than any other museum in the region, they receive the least amount of municipal funding, Risvold stated. The society requested that the Town of Hinton work with Yellowhead County to receive funding under a similar model as the Galloway Station Museum.

Due to a current policy from Yellowhead County, they can only provide funding for the museum if the ownership of the museum building was with the Town of Hinton. Yellowhead County advised Heather Waye, Hinton’s strategic services manager, that this policy is currently under review.

She noted during the Sept. 14 meeting that transfers of assets are now required to be done at market value, so the Town could not acquire the asset for a dollar in order to meet the County’s policy of ownership.

Masha Scheele, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hinton Voice

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