Need for space being addressed at museum

BRUCE COUNTY - It’s no secret that the Bruce County Archives needs space. It’s what was behind the acquisition of the old Anglican manse, a measure that collapsed in a highly divisive court case that the county lost, said Warden Chris Peabody.

The need for space remains an issue, one that’s addressed in a report being presented to Bruce County council on April 18. Peabody’s comment was, “2016 is back!”

The report’s overview referred to the over 1,300 artifacts that staff have deaccessioned between 2019 and 2023, and continued donations of objects and archival material. The overview stated that “many areas within the collection and archives have reached capacity and we expect collections to be full by mid-2024 resulting in a collections moratorium and anticipate full capacity within archives by 2029.” This includes only onsite storage at 33 Victoria St. N., Southampton.

The report includes four options, with the preferred one consisting of expansion on the existing site. That would mean moving a couple of historic outbuildings, and would come with a $13.5 million price tag, said Peabody. That’s option three of four. The first two options do not provide enough space and the fourth – building a separate facility to house the archives – has an estimated cost of between $13.5 and $16.9 million, in addition to site acquisition costs.

Peabody commented, “That’s a big price tag, given the county’s financial reserves, which are low; it will need careful consideration.”

He said he plans to ask why the Walkerton jail building was not considered in the study. Larger items could be stored in the administrative area of the old jail, and Peabody even mentioned the possibility of covering over the jail’s courtyard.

Less contentious is the trails report that’s coming before county council. “The county has an excellent trails system,” he said. So does Brockton, he continued, making specific mention of the Brant Tract. “It’s a great trail system.” He expressed surprise that more people don’t make use of it.

Also in the county file is the recent meeting of the Western Ontario Wardens’ Caucus (WOWC) in Woodstock, to set priorities.

Topping the list, not surprisingly, is housing, both as a separate item and as part of an overall strategy for workforce attraction. The latter includes special mention of the proposed Bruce C, as well as battery plants in St. Thomas and Windsor, Peabody said. The goal is to mitigate the impact of “mega-projects” on education and training, the impact on existing local businesses, and housing. Another priority will be homelessness and support for addictions and mental health. A fourth is infrastructure – water, sewers and schools. “All are important,” he said. However, he said he’s not backing down on the priority that was number five on the list – the unsustainable cost of agency nurses, and the impact on long-term care and overall health-care.

Peabody made note of a recent Bruce Power event, which included an Ipsos polling presentation. “Anger is rated at minus 27 per cent,” he said. “Right after COVID, it was plus four per cent. A big reason for the anger is housing; young people are shut out of the housing market, and rents keep going up. And a close second is health care.”

He added, “The county needs to take some bold steps on housing.”

Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times