Osoyoos voters approve museum

The history of Osoyoos will no longer have to live in the archival room in Oliver.

The history of Osoyoos will no longer have to live in the archival room in Oliver.

Osoyoos residents have voted in favour of acquiring a building and land on Main Street for the museum to move into at a referendum held on Saturday. The referendum to authorize a loan to acquire lands to construct a new Osoyoos museum received 619 yes votes to 462 no votes. The vote authorizes the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen to borrow up to $1.26 million for the project. The direct cost to local homeowners via property taxes is estimated to be approximately $21 annually.

“We really appreciate the support from the community. It is a difficult thing to ask a community to approve a significant amount of capital expenditure these days but the museum was sorely in need of a  new home. We have a remarkable collection for a small community but the 57-year-old curling rink was just playing hob with the collection. The new, more permanent facility is going to be a real boon because it will be more visible, more accessible, the collection will be safer and we are really pleased with the outcome,” said Museum Society director Mat Hassen. “There was no environmental control in the main part of the current museum and as a result some of the items have suffered from it. In fact, we have had to rely on the Oliver archives to preserve some of our documents because they weren’t safe in our facility.”

RDOS Area A director Mark Pendergraft, the Museum Society directors along with town council worked to secure a new location for the museum. Its current home not only offered inadequate conditions for the museum, it also is situated on prime waterfront property that is identified by the town for redevelopment as parkland in the approved Waterfront Master Plan. Hassen said the arrangements are that the property will transfer to the town and regional district on Sept. 1. The current tenants will have their lease extended for one year to allow time to build their new facility.

“It also allows us time to raise the money to do the redevelopment in the building,” said Hassan, explaining that environment control in the proposed archive room and a lift are needed. “That we are absolutely positive we can handle, it will not be additional taxpayer expense. There are matching grants and support programs out there that we will be eligible for. We are quite optimistic that we are going to be able to handle all of that ourselves.”

Council and Pendergraft successfully negotiated an offer to purchase the Home Building Centre on Main Street and an adjacent property from Gaertner Holdings for $1.525 million. Additional property surrounding the building will be used for 22 public parking spaces and an outdoor area for an urban park and display area for the museum. Two lots purchased by the town, within the scope of the deal, have been identified by council as sites for future affordable housing development. Purchase of the two adjoining lots will proceed with the use of the town reserve funds.

“The museum in this proposed site will benefit Osoyoos and area as a tourist attraction, allowing our local history to be showcased proudly and with class,” said Pendergraft.