The Bulkley Valley Museum (BVM) is asking Smithers Town Council to take steps to make sure an important piece of Bulkley Valley history continues to have a roof over its head.
The Town recently voted unanimously to approve a motion that a Nov. 5 letter from the BVM be brought forward in future discussions around remediation of the LB Warner lot at 1621 Main Street.
Currently the site houses a number of old buildings from the former Ministry of Highways works yard which serve as storage facilities for a number of local organizations, including the BVM.
At their Apr. 23 meeting council voted 5-2 in favour to reclassify the designation of the lot from civic to mixed residential under the Official Community Plan.
They also voted in favour of changing the zoning designation of the land from public to medium-density residential and to set aside $250,000 of the Town’s recently-acquired $6.2 million infrastructure grant funding toward remediation of the site.
The steps are the first of many toward the potential (but not guaranteed) construction of housing on the old LB Warner lot, which has been identified as a potential location for provincially-funded affordable housing.
As part of that process, the BVM said they are proactively working to evaluate their capacity to care for and store oversized artifacts in their collection (due to the possibility of losing some or all of their storage at 1621 Main Street).
During this evaluation, the museum said they found something interesting, an old portable saw mill owned by the Town.
It had been in storage by the BVM at the LB Warner site since 2003 and, according to an Interior News article from the same year, was believed to be over 100 years old at the time.
The BVM has been storing it since a motion was passed unanimously at a July 22, 2003 Smithers Town Council meeting to set it up at the public works yard “until a more suitable location is found.”
Enthusiasm for the relocation of the sawmill — originally owned by the Schibli family of Smithers — faded, with no suitable location ever found.
Now, some 16-and-a-half years later, the BVM is urging the Town to come up with a plan for the item.
The request is part of a larger effort by the museum to consolidate some of its oversized items being stored on the LB Warner lot.
“[Smithers Town Council] may not be aware that this item exists and/or that it belongs to the Town,” the letter addressed to council reads.
“It’s an item with significant local history [and is] representative of the smaller family-run sawmills that were once common throughout northwestern BC.”
The BVM added they are currently unable to take the sawmill into their collection unless a long-term storage location can be arranged by the Town.