PORT McNEILL—Four months after voting down a chance to enter into the Regional District of Mount Waddington heritage registry service, Port McNeill council performed an abrupt about-face last week.
In a 4-0 vote that followed what seemed to be mixed debate, council agreed to request inclusion in the RDMW heritage registry bylaw, which would allow the Town to seek funding assistance to register, keep and maintain historical artifacts and property.
The motion also included the budgeting of $2,000 to the Regional District for its share in administration of the heritage bylaw.
“In October the (Port McNeill) museum came to us about this,” said coun. Gaby Wickstrom, who brought the motion. “We did talk about it at that time, but decided we didn’t want to go with it because of the money; we didn’t have the money.
“But they felt it was very important to give credibility to the museum. Also, when we’re in the heritage service area, if any pieces come in that fall under that category, it will help them with funding.”
The Town’s application to the RDMW heritage registry will need to be approved by the Regional District board and the electoral areas currently signed on to the registry — Area D (Woss) and Area C (Coal Harbour/Hyde Creek/Nimpkish Heights).
Before the vote, Mayor Gerry Furney said he would be meeting with the RD board the following day in committee, and could seek more information on “whether we’re better off to combine ourselves with the RD or stand on our own.”
During the discussion that followed, councillors Shirley Ackland and Chris Sharpe both recommended hearing what the mayor brought back from his meeting before making a decision, and Ackland made a counter motion to table the discussion until the next meeting.
But Wickstrom reminded council she had a motion on the table and, when Grant Anderson seconded it, Ackland and Sharpe both voted affirmative without further comment.
Carnival license waived
Council voted to continue a long-standing tradition by waiving the normal $300 business license fee for the April visit by West Coast Amusements, but left open the possibility the tradition could end by next year.
The waiver request was submitted by the Port McNeill Lions Club, which hosts WCA for its two-day stay at the arena parking lot each spring and which receives a $1,500 donation from the carnival company for its efforts.
Local businessman Derek Koel objected to the waiver from the public gallery, noting the $300 comes out of the pocket of the Chamber of Commerce, which helps local businesses.
“Not everybody’s thrilled they’re coming to town and taking all the money,” Koel said of WCA. “I mean, it’s great they bring rides for the kids and all, don’t get me wrong. But the carnival coming to town doesn’t really help the town that much.”
Coun. Ackland pointed out the Lions Club is involved in funding several key youth initiatives, including a school lunch program at North Island Secondary School and an annual scholarship.
Council agreed to approve the waiver this spring, in lieu of WCA’s $1,500 donation to the Lions, but will research how other communities on Vancouver Island handle the issue of the license with the touring operator and review its policy based on the results.
Chamber contract renewed
Council agreed to renew its contract with the Port McNeill and District Chamber of Commerce to provide funding for the town’s Visitor Information Centre, but attached some verbal reservations to its approval.
The contract will provide up to $20,000 of funding toward VIC operations for the period from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2013. That matches the amount granted last year, when the centre served more than 15,000 visitors, according to Chamber president David Mitchell.
Council noted the VIC has promised a website that has not yet been delivered, though coun. Wickstrom admitted the Chamber is partnering with the Regional District of Mount Waddington on its web portal and that has not yet gone on-line.
Councillors also said Town administrator Sue Harvey has had questions about the timeliness and accuracy of the VIC’s quarterly reports to the town.
“I’m curious where we’ve dropped the ball,” said Mitchell. “I’ve never gotten any comments and I’ve never been informed it’s an issue. I’m actually at a loss to explain that, because I wasn’t aware it was an issue for Sue.”
Harvey was not in attendance at the meeting.
Arena project done
Council received and filed a letter from RDMW administrator Greg Fletcher notifying the Town the Chilton Regional Arena condenser project has been completed under budget at a cost of $64,873. Replacing of the condenser, which Fletcher said has already resulted in improved ice conditions and lower energy costs, had been budgeted for $70,000.
The Town of Port McNeill contributed one-third of the cost of the project, with the bulk of the remaining funds allocated through Federal Gas Tax funding, Fletcher said.
The RDMW manages the arena, located on Town property, through a lease agreement with Port McNeill.