Revelstoke city council has suspended plans to build an extension to the Revelstoke Fire Fighters Museum. The expansion was set to break ground and be completed this summer; the vast majority of funding was in place and a local contractor had been chosen.
But in a behind-closed-doors meeting on April 18, council put a damper on the plans, putting the project into “abeyance” for what looks like two or three years.
Revelstoke Fire Rescue Services fire chief Rob Girard had updated council on the plan earlier this year. Council was concerned about operating costs for the museum and requested a business case. On April 10, Revelstoke Fire Rescue Society president Brad Faucett and other representatives from the society presented that business case to council. Some councillors said they felt the plan wasn’t comprehensive enough and expressed their concerns about the operating plan.
A week later, council decided to shelf the project.
Coun. Phil Welock oversees the fire hall in his role as councillor. At an April 18 meeting at the fire hall, Welock said the delay would likely be two or three years. He noted 2015 is the 100th anniversary of the department. “To me that would be a target date,” Welock said.
He said there were a number of reasons for the delay, including many newly recruited volunteer firefighters. “I’d rather the chief work with the new volunteer firefighters … to learn how to fight fires and man the rescue truck and the first responder than spending time in a museum,” Welock said.
The extension would be used to house and restore an antique fire department truck. Welock worried restoring the fire truck could take years. He also wanted to see more of the long-time, ex-volunteers get involved with the project. “I guess there’s a political aspect to that as well,” he said.
He also said a big council thrust was improving deteriorating infrastructure. This project would create another facility to maintain. “Grant money is taxpayers’ money regardless where it comes from,” Welock said. “The business plan was fine but on a scale of one to five I would have given it a one.” He said the plan needed time for further refinement so the operation could be self-sustaining.
“We would expect people to pay,” Welock said. “I think you’re going to see a different focus from council. We’re going to start saying no.”
“I think the taxpayers expect us to be a little more fiscally responsible with any dollar we get, regardless of where it comes from.”
Fire chief Girard said he’d work with the volunteers to refine the business plan and “focus a bit more on how this museum would be self-sustaining and how it would be run on a daily basis.”
The museum expansion was budgeted at $160,000. The society had secured $87,500 from a tourism infrastructure fund, and had requested $50,000 from the Columbia Shuswap Regional District’s economic opportunity fund. The plan was to make up the remainder through in kind donations.
Revelstoke economic development director Alan Mason said the $87,500 in funding from the tourism infrastructure fund was part of a five-year plan; the timing was flexible.