Director questions million-a-year museum/theatre

Cost to run existing Maple Ridge Museum nowhere near that

It was the $1.5 million in yearly operating costs for a new museum and small theatre as one of Maple Ridge’s potential new recreational facilities, that caught Val Patenaude’s attention.

Because the cost to run the Maple Ridge Museum for a year on a shoestring, with only two employees, is only tenth of that, says the executive director.

“We currently run two museums and an archives on less than (what) a single management level costs the city,” she said on Facebook.

Maple Ridge council is currently poring over a wish list of new recreation facilities which it could build under a proposed $110-million funding package that’s part of this year’s budget.

“We just want to be given a fair hearing and not have wild numbers attached to us, because they stick,” Patenaude said Thursday.

“I cannot see where they’re getting $1.5 million for operating. It seems really outrageous.”

She also objected to Coun. Tyler Shymkiw’s using the term “poison pill” when referring to the museum as one of the projects which people may not support in a funding plebiscite.

Patenaude is worried a new museum and archives could be put at the bottom of the priority list as council considers a new pool, ice rink, and sports fields, all of which have vocal user groups who would support new facilities.

A new museum-archives and theatre is one of the projects pegged at $11 million, is one of the additions that council will consider as it tries to sort through what to build and how to pay for it.

Patenaude said no one has asked her how much it costs to run the museum for a year. She’s worried that once a million-dollar a year price tag is attached to a new museum, it will be pushed to the bottom of the list as taxpayers clamour for more ice and field time.

“I understand there are more people that enjoy soccer fields.”

Maple Ridge has been considering a new museum for the last decade and has set aside a lot on 224th Street for that purpose, although there’s never been any money allotted for that.

But many are now thinking of a more central location.

“There’s lots of different options but we haven’t talked about any.”

She said though that storage space for museum artifacts would pair well with space for theatre sets, adding that a museum and archives just needs a secure building in good condition.

And the amount of archives and records and artifacts continues to grow. “History doesn’t stop,” she said mentioning that the museum just received 16 boxes of negatives from several years from the Maple Ridge Times newspaper.

Patenaude will contact staff.

“I want to hear what they’re thinking about.”