City of North Vancouver council made history Monday, voting unanimously to chip in an extra $550,000 on the long-awaited museum.
Escalating construction costs and a skilled labour shortage had imperiled the development, according to museum director Nancy Kirkpatrick, who warned council in July that a scheduled 2020 opening might not be possible without an infusion of cash.
Longtime museum advocate Coun. Don Bell advocated the expenditure, suggesting the cash would allow the facility to become a “living museum” that will attract residents and tourists. In order to be worthy of the city, the museum needs the “best possible finish,” Bell said. “It’s not what I would call a Cadillac finish but at least it’s not a Chevrolet finish,” he said, offering apologies to anyone who owns a Chevrolet.
While it’s somewhat understandable a facility may need extra capital funds, Coun. Holly Back warned the museum against returning to council with another funding request. “I don’t want to see the museum back here next year asking for operational funds,” she said. “You need to actually make your own money and use your own business plan and not come back to this table all the time to ask for money.”
Bell assured his colleagues the museum commission is aware of those concerns and has no plans to ask for more money.
While she supported the funding, Coun. Linda Buchanan noted that it seemed inequitable council was advancing the museum project only one week after deferring a funding request from the Polygon Gallery, noting the waterfront photo gallery has covered a large portion of their budget through private donors.
Coun. Rod Clark suggested the comparison was “a bit erroneous,” adding that council hadn’t rejected Polygon’s request and that the gallery is funded by a commission supported by both the City and District of North Vancouver.
The city needs to treat its cultural facilities “on the same ground,” Buchanan said, emphasizing the city’s investment in the success of both the museum and the gallery.
“I think they’re equally as valuable,” Mayor Darrell Mussatto said.
However, the city should guard against: “robbing one to pay the other,” Mussatto added, calling for the funding gap between the two facilities to be narrowed.
The city needs a place: “where we can tell the story of our community,” beginning with the area’s Indigenous population, Coun. Pam Bookham said.
The new museum is set to feature a restored streetcar and exhibits that unearth North Van’s Indigenous history and chronicle its transformative logging boom.
The new $6.1-million budget includes several items – a new reception counter, audio-video equipment, a security system and moveable walls – that were excluded from the previous budget.
The money must be spent by the end of 2021.
Coun. Craig Keating did not attend the meeting.