Controls needed on ambitious museum board extensions
To the Expositor:
Kudos to Councillor Brian Parker for shining the spotlight on Billings Township council’s in camera negotiations with the federal government for the Billings Lighthouse—the structure standing on land adjacent to the mayor’s home and business (‘Lighthouse debate heats up Billings council,’ December 11, page 1).
I’m surprised that Councillor Imrie is happy to go into the darkness of an unclear future of what the town might do with this light—which roughly brackets Kagawong Harbour—twinned with another which stands on the end of the breakwater and entrance to the Small Craft Basin. I have never quite understood why all the fuss about one without discussion of the other. I mean, if I was a boat captain back in the early days coming into Mudge Bay at night, and I headed towards the light to the west of Mayor Hunt’s store, I would finish up outside the safe harbour. And if I headed towards the other, I’d risk finishing up on the Benjamin rock pile. Neither ideal—much like this idea!
My problem is not so much with the lighthouse as it is with council’s priorities. Less than a decade ago, the township received from the federal government the transfer of title to the government dock—for a nominal dollar—if I have the facts right. There were some terms and conditions attached to that too: maintenance of the dock and operating the harbour being amongst them. I have to say, those liabilities seem to have been forgotten of late—the dock is in need of repair, the harbour long overdue for dredging and the focus of council has moved onto other “distractions.” If I represented the federal government, I would probably set some fairly stringent terms and conditions on this deal, even if the lighthouse is of lesser importance to the community than say the harbour itself.
More to the point: someone needs to put some controls on the growth of the museum and its ambitious extensions like this lighthouse. The museum and the museum board seem to need money out of every Township budget, yet I have never seen any accounts on how those monies are expended and I have certainly never seen any audited numbers from that board contained within the overall town annual audit unlike the Library Board, which produces annual balanced “books” working with far less from the Town than the museum board, it seems.
I guess council should be relieved, though. The town’s website hasn’t been updated since around May, so council minutes and council meeting dates can only be obtained by visiting council offices. A new website was promised for October, then no later than November 25, but has yet to appear. Maybe when it eventually does, it could include just a little enlightenment on what the business plan for this lighthouse acquisition is, as well as some budgetary numbers from the museum board and some sign that neither will turn into a boat anchor on town resources!
EDITOR’S NOTE: For clarification, The Expositor contacted Billings clerk-treasurer Kathy McDonald who explained that the museum’s books are not audited with the municipality’s, but are audited by the same firm. These statements can be accessed through the museum board. Ms. McDonald also explained that the 2013 municipal share of the museum’s budget was $4,600, and that the municipality pays for its hydro, as it is housed in the same building as the municipal offices.