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Letter to the Editor: A better use of Oliver Paipoonge taxpayer dollars

Residents express concerns about local municipal spending
Letters to the editor

To the editor: 

Every number included is taken from documents on the municipal website using the whole dollar amount. Budgets are available under Departments > Finance. Please take the time to confirm our numbers. Only paid admission or door fees revenue is used. This is a museum and the true gauge of interest is how many people go to see exhibits. Any calculated number is ours. We have used the July 18/23 agenda and minutes as a source of information. The News on the municipal website is also a source.

Under Resolution No.264-2023 Oliver Paipoonge council has dedicated $433,079 to the museum. From Report 2023.117:


On June 28th Council passed By-Law 45-2023 authorizing the sale of the Duke Hunt Museum property on Rosslyn Road for $500,000. At recent meetings Council has talked about how to utilize the proceeds. During these discussions it was noted the Museum Master Plan approved by Council in January 2020 earmarks the proceeds from the sale of the property for the Plan.

Things Changed

When the Museum Master Plan was developed the arsenic in the Rosslyn water supply was not an issue. Now it is. In a news release on the municipal website dated May 2/23 it says they will grapple with financing. From that news release:

"Another element of this matter is financing. How costs will be covered is yet to be determined. Council will need to grapple with financing as cost forecasts become available."

The Museum Master Plan (Included with Report 2023.117)

The museum master plan shows a surplus of $433,079. Far and away the biggest source of revenue is the sale of municipal assets. The sale of 4 pieces of municipal property netted about $739,111. If that $739,111 had been paid admission or private donations to the museum we would fully support using the money on the museum. But it wasn’t. It came from the sale of municipal assets and now some of that money is required for a critical need on a high priority municipal asset, Rosslyn water. The other large source of revenue is a NOHFC grant of $477,375. In our opinion those are tax dollars that were taken and returned by a higher level of government.

Our suggestion:

In our opinion the best use of the money would have been to simply set it aside to cover the unknown cost of the arsenic removal equipment. Report 2023.132 was given to council at the August 8/23 council meeting and the cost is still completely unknown. Wouldn’t it be better to be ahead of the game and have all or at least hopefully all the money in place? The cost could be higher. No one knows. There are two other possibilities for the money that we feel rate higher than the museum. One would have been using it to cover the tax levy increase which was $433,672 (2023 Budget Notes pg. 36). The ship has sailed on that now that the bills have gone out. The other was a suggestion by one candidate for councillor. He suggested a roof over two of the outdoor rinks. The money would not cover the cost of even one but it would have been a start. And the users of those rinks are almost 100% Oliver Paipoonge children. But in our opinion the Rosslyn water trumps any other use for the money.

Taxpayers should be aware of just how much the museum deficits over the past few years have been. In the budget documents the far left column shows the budget projection for the previous year, the centre column has the final “As of Dec. 31” number and the right column the current year budget projection. The following are taken directly from past budgets posted on the municipal website using the “as of Dec.31” number with the exception of the 2023 number which is the budget projection:

  • 2020 total $169683 Final Dec 31/20 (2020 Duke Hunt $78,166 2020 Founders $91,517)
  • 2021 Founders $679,610 Final Dec 31/21 (Duke Hunt no longer exists as a museum)
  • 2022 Founders $156,451 Final Dec31/22
  • 2023 Heritage $126,951 Budget projection March 2023 (Name change)

Those numbers come from final budgets submitted to council and are available on the municipal website.

Attachments to Report 2023.117 show the cost for the new car collection building as $666,365. The admission projection in the 2022 budget was $6400. The grand opening was in July of 2022. After being closed for 2 years and with a new building to showcase the cars the final total admission revenue shown for 2022 in the 2023 budget was $230. In fairness we do have to point out that the opening was not until about July 2 so some time was missed, roughly 25% of the season. Admission could have reached $300 or so for the entire season, based on the attendance from July 2 until closing. Even using our $300 projection, admission was still about $6100 lower than the budget amount.

The Museum Master Plan was created and $666,365 spent in 2021 constructing the key part, Russ’s Garage. It opened in 2022. That $230 attendance revenue in 2022 represents an increase of $49 over the last operating year, 2019, when door fees were $181. We view it as a failure. But turn the page and move on. We think the same will be the case if large amounts are spent either repairing or rebuilding existing structures. The best attendance years are long past. In fact the budgets show the last time total paid attendance exceeded $1000 was in 2016. The best years for the cars were in 2014 and 2015 when admission was almost $3000 each year. It has never exceeded $1000 again and reached a low of $181 in 2019. If the same buildings that need major amounts of cash for repairs were open then why would anyone think that we will see a massive spike in attendance if they are repaired or replaced?

Here is an example of the types of numbers the museum needs for attendance. In the 2023 budget salary and benefits total $71,141. To cover ONLY those costs 14,228 people would have to pay the $5 admission. This would NOT eliminate the budget deficit. It would simply REDUCE it to about $55,000. We wonder how many taxpayers are aware that the museum has never had enough paid admission and door fees to cover the natural gas, hydro and heating costs of the buildings in any single year? Check for yourself, it is correct according to budget documents.

These two taxpayers do not need to see another plan to spend money at the museum. What is required is a plan to increase attendance. In our opinion we think that the all the proceeds from the sale of Duke Hunt should be reallocated to the Rosslyn water arsenic removal costs immediately. It is a bill that is coming and it must be paid. Pay the bill with cash in hand or tax the residents are the only options we see.

The taxpayers have contributed heavily to the museum over the years. We have done our part. It is time to see a plan that will result in a massive increase in attendance and a deficit of no more than $50,000 starting in 2024.

In closing remember these numbers. The sources for the numbers are in the brackets.

  • 2019 Door fees to see the cars $181 (2020 approved budget Museum – Duke Hunt)
  • 2021 New building at Founders for the cars etc $666,365. (Museum financial report July18/23 agenda)
  • 2022 Museum Admission $230 (2023 approved budget Museum pg. 23) Increase of $49 over 2019.
  • July 18/23 Council dedicates another $433,079 to the museum. (Resolution No. 264-2023)

Rick Angove and Les Pawluk

Link to Museum Report and attachments. Item 6 (i) Report 2023.117,87663&preview=93004

Link to Resolution No. 264-2023 Meeting Minutes item 6(i),88117&preview=93270

Link to Approved Budgets. You can easily select the 2020 budget to review the final 2019 numbers and the 2023 budget to view the final numbers for 2022.


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