Council decides on fate of North Huron Museum

·4 min read

WINGHAM – A decision has been made by council regarding a proposal for the future of the North Huron Museum.

North Huron council discussed the proposal during a special council meeting on Nov. 10 at the Town Hall Theatre.

The presentation

Director of Recreation and Community Services, Vicky Luttenberger, presented a lengthy report on the museum proposal requested by council on Oct. 18.

Luttenberger provided several comments for council’s consideration in her report, including some of the costs associated with the township acquiring an additional asset.

“An estimated budget for maintenance and capital repairs including, but not limited to snow removal, cleaning services and flowerbed maintenance is $20,000,” the report said.

“In addition to ongoing maintenance and capital costs, operating costs such as heat, hydro, cooling, insurance and IT services would be incurred,” Luttenberger added. “An estimated first year budget for these costs is $8,000.”

She addressed the staffing issue at length, saying, “given current workloads, it is not possible to absorb these hours into the existing staff compliment.”

A 20-hour work schedule would barely give the staff member enough time to fulfill the duties required for this position, the report indicated, even with help from volunteers.

In her report, Luttenberger said, “It is also noteworthy that across Canada, volunteerism is on the decline. If this trend is experienced in North Huron, the number of required staff hours may increase.”

“Council’s options would be to decrease service levels in other areas of the township and/or budget for the hiring of a new staff member,” she said.

Luttenberger mentioned other considerations, like vacation days, sick days, time in lieu, and working alone.

The report went on to say that based on the proposal, the financial implications would include both short and long-term increases to the township’s tax base.

The deaccessioning process (the official removal of an item from a library, museum, or art gallery) is estimated to be approximately $140,000.

Luttenberger recommended an additional $60,000 be added to the budget for ongoing maintenance and capital repairs, utilities, IT services, insurance, and extra staff hours.

Finally, Luttenberger said, “The township would also need to incorporate the new facility into the asset management plan and maintain the current museum until the deaccessioning process has been completed.”

The discussion

Coun. Paul Heffer began the discussion that followed, praising the proposal, noting the only expense the township would see was an employee to oversee the museum, who will also maintain an information kiosk for tourists to the area.

Heffer suggested utilizing the funds and the staff member allocated to the recently sold airport to fund a staff member at the museum, noting that the person doesn’t need to lose their job when the airport sale is finalized.

The current budget for the airport staff is under $30,000, which would cover the $28,000 needed for the part-time museum employee.

Coun. Kevin Falconer said he likes the idea of a museum. He supports the efforts but wonders about the risk of the proposal due to the demise of the current location.

Falconer also suggested that current staff may not have the qualifications required to perform the wide assortment of duties outlined in Luttenberger’s report, saying, “this is a specialized position.”

“If a current staff member wants to take on all of these duties, on top of their regular job, I suggest it be a senior staff member,” Falconer said, referring to the proposed 20-hour week. “This sounds like a full-time job to me.”

Falconer asked about the commitment the township would be making if the proposal went forward as written, inquiring if the contract would allow for early withdrawal from the 20-year promise if deemed no longer feasible.

Luttenberger explained that the way the contract reads, if the 20-year obligation were not met, the property would be returned to the land donor.

Councillors and staff held a lengthy discussion regarding the legalities, hazards, and risks of having one staff member, unsupervised students, and volunteers running the museum.

The decision

Before council held their vote, Luttenberger said that this was an informational report meant to make members aware of the additional staffing and costs required to make a well-informed decision.

Heffer put forward a motion to accept the Museum Committee’s proposal and direct staff to proceed with the next steps in the process and requested a recorded vote.

The motion passed 4 – 1. Falconer was the only nay vote, with all others voting yes. Coun. Anita van Hittersum was absent.

Future considerations

There is still a lot of work to be done, as the museum’s relocation is a big job.

The report said that the Museum Committee is now tasked with raising approximately $338,075 to undertake the project.

“To raise the funds, the fundraising committee would also likely need start-up funds to undertake fundraising initiatives,” states the report.

Staff also recommended that council establish terms of reference for the fundraising committee and request a more detailed fundraising plan.

Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times

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