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LETTER: Community shouldn't build shelter for Brill buses

Displaying the Brill buses is fine, but there's no need for Oliver Paipoonge to build a shelter to house them.
Letter to the editor

To the editor:

Council has been presented with a proposal for construction of a winter shelter for the Brill buses. It is also projected to be used for educational and meetings. Total attendance was 1554 (Report 2023.194) for 2023, adults and children. Using the operating hours (314) in report 2023.194, daily operating hours and total attendance it averages about 5 people per hour, roughly 20 per day.

It is hard to believe a 1672 square foot structure is required for those purposes. The Brill buses were in service in Fort William and Port Arthur (later Thunder Bay). The closest to either of the old townships of Oliver and Paipoonge those buses would have been is the west end of the “Loop” in Westfort, many miles from either township. They are hardly an item that needs to be on display at an Oliver Paipoonge Heritage Park.

About the only possible tie that we can see would be electricity produced at Kakabeka to power them. Quite simply the buses belong on display in the city. They have no connection to rural heritage. If the owners wish to display them at the museum, fine. But no municipal funds to build a shelter for them.

How much money will be Oliver Paipoonge taxpayers be asked to provide for this project and where will it come from is unknown yet. All we do know is that under the heading of Potential Funding, the Municipality of Oliver Paipoonge (Museum Board) is on the top of the list. Now if this means Museum Board members are going to fund every penny out of their own personal pockets, great.

But if the plan is using any municipal money, likely from reserves, then we think council should review the past year.

We do know in March of 2023 council approved a budget that proposed a museum deficit of $126,951. As of writing this we do not have final numbers posted yet to see what it finished at. In July of 2023 council approved allocating another $433,079 to the museum.

See Report 2023.117 to confirm that and it can be found in the agenda for the July 18/23 council meeting. Since the final budget for 2024 has not been posted yet we have to use the proposed deficit in the last draft which was $131,657. So in 11 months council has budgeted (draft and approved) or committed a total of $691,687 to the museum.

Taxpayers should review that museum year end report to council, Report 2023.194 (Nov 14/23 agenda). Paid attendance was $4695. There were 1039 adults that paid admission and 515 children.

The park was open for 314 hours. But that is not all that is in that report. A table from Report 2022.180 says that attendance in 2022 was 1973. So attendance dropped by 419 or about 21%. The museum was open for 176 hours in 2022 and 314 in 2023. So you have an increase in hours by 138 and a reduction in attendance of 419.

There is already a very significant list of required repairs and maintenance at the museum. That list is in report 2023.110 (June 28/23 Meeting agenda). The list includes under the headings:

  • Backlog $562,000
  • 2023 capital projects $174,000
  • Upcoming (<5 years) $360,000
  • Annual requirements (three per cent) $60,820

Where will council find that money? More borrowing? Higher taxes?

In the submission to council the author states “Everyone understands that smaller Museums or Heritage Parks will never break-even…..”. We agree and support a small deficit, $50,000 maximum. But in the case of this museum the 2024 budget proposes salaries that are roughly 10 times paid admission. Heat and hydro are 3 times projected admission.

That annual requirements above is 10 times projected admission. Using the operating hours last year (314) and the projected 2024 deficit of $131,657 we get a taxpayer funded deficit of $419 per operating hour and projected admission of roughly $20 per operating hour. I think that shows how far away from any break even point this museum is.

This could be the first project for the Friends of the Museum, a group that received funding from Oliver Paipoonge taxpayers last December (Resolution 439.2023). Let it be their goal to raise the money to cover the complete project. Once they have raised the money including at least a 20% contingency, start construction.

Council should be very clear that no Oliver Paipoonge tax dollars will be provided and no funds will be removed from the museum reserve fund. That money plus much more is required for the costs listed in Report 2023.110.

We wonder if there are three people on council that will oppose more money for the museum if a request is made?

Lew Pawluk,
Rick Angove,
Oliver Paipoonge


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