Hanging on to a community’s history is important.
But, it’s not always easy.
Levi Beck was once a very influential local businessman with a truly magnificent home that would be a gem historically if it were standing today. The house was demolished years ago to make way for the first fire hall at the current location.
No one will deny the need for the fire hall, but history once lost is impossible to reclaim, and the lost Beck house shows.
Drive around Yorkton and historic buildings are limited. Those with public access so that the community can learn from that history are more limited still.
One building that has managed to remain is the brick mill at 120 Livingstone Street.
It is far from the building it once was, but it stands as testament to the City’s past and the importance of agriculture to that past.
The Yorkton Brick Mill Heritage Society has a vision to make the old mill property a more integral part of the city in terms of preserving our history, and promoting tourism and business.
The Society has been making improvements to the mill for the last several years and has taken on a variety of fundraising initiatives.
The work has included a new engineered roof, work on the foundation, landscaping and trees, and ongoing repairs on the exterior, said Society member Gene Krepakevich at the regular meeting of Council Monday.
Next the Society hopes to install a series of outdoor story boards to tell stories of Yorkton’s history, and then a new two-storey building that would have 6,400 square feet of space.
At the same meeting Larry Pearen with the Society said the building they are terming an “interpretive centre” would have a cost of about $1 million, and they want the City to help fund that cost by providing $300,000.
Councillor Quinn Haider asked if the City did not provide the money had the Society considered “going at it on your own?”
“We probably won’t be going on it on our own,” said Pearen. “I don’t think we’d be moving ahead with the building without the City.”
Nor should the Society have to go it alone.
A municipality has a role to play in providing facilities in a community that are important to the sport, culture and recreation.
It is why there are City dollars in things ranging from tennis courts and golf courses, to a public library, and an art gallery.
The interpretive centre at the old mill, no matter what exactly the tenant mix becomes; local museum, offices for the City historian, education locale, would fit into that municipal mandate nicely.
In terms of dollars the $300,000 is a relatively small request when you think about the importance of the facility in protecting our history. It is essentially one per cent of the City’s annual taxes, with a one per cent increase raising $242,500, which is low when factored over the years the building would exist.
For comparison the budget for playground equipment planned for Patrick Park is $130,000.
Mayor Bob Maloney said it was too early to think about tax increases, adding there are various ways the City might come up with the $300,000 without tax increases once they begin to look more closely at the request.
“I like the vision. I think there is a lot of potential. We have to see the light at the end of the tunnel on this one,” he said Monday.
The Mayor hit this issue squarely on the head. The potential he noted is indeed intriguing in terms of what the site could mean to our community in the years ahead, and the City requested funds are a reasonable taxpayer investment to see that potential realized.