Pictured above is the new site for the McBride library and museum. / LAURA KEIL
Pictured above is the new site for the McBride library and museum. / LAURA KEIL

It was close, but unofficial results of the April 30th assent vote show a majority for the “Yes” side, in favour of borrowing funds to allow McBride’s library and museum to move to Main Street.

A total of 621 votes were cast, with 335 voting yes (54 per cent) for a plan to purchase the building and property at 521 Main street, and set up an additional service, paid for by local tax dollars, to support increased operational costs.

Residents and residential property owners from Dome Creek to Croyden were eligible to vote on setting up the new service which means up to an additional $27.47 in taxes per year per $100,000 value for residential property, or $67.30 per $100,000 for business property.

Chief Election Officer Karla Jensen says there isn’t an estimate for the number of eligible voters, since there is limited information on unincorporated areas in the most recent census. The population in McBride was 586 in the 2011 Census, and the population of Area H of the Regional District has been estimated at around 2000, but that includes areas outside of the proposed service area.

“I am thrilled at the high turnout of voters who took the time to have their say in this,” says Dannielle Alan, Regional Director for Area H. “This truly is a community that cares.”

Alan says she looks forward to working with the library and museum boards to review the numbers and projections from the feasibility study to try to reduce the tax requisition to the bare minimum. The bylaw for the service sets the maximum that can be requested, but a budget is submitted for each service, each year, to the Regional District board for approval

“The vote was very close and it is incumbent upon us to be respectful of the concerns of the residents who voted against this tax increase by making every penny count,” says Alan.

“We are absolutely thrilled and excited to get started on turning 521 Main into a vibrant library and museum that welcomes all into town,” said Joel Zhan in an emailed statement, on behalf of the library and museum boards.

“The two boards will continue to fundraise in order to help reduce the borrowing amount. Once the amount is set, fundraised dollars will go toward expanding programs and learning opportunities for all who enter the new facility,” Zhan said.

Over the past months, a number of residents spoke passionately in letters to the editor as well in social media, both for and against the proposal.

Proponents of the move say the library and museum need more space and filling a currently empty building at the entrance to the McBride will help encourage economic development. A feasibility study done by Regional District staff said the current buildings were beyond repair for public use, and identified purchasing 521 Main Street as the least expensive option. It also evaluated building new on property recently purchased by the Museum board, or renovating the existing buildings.

Opponents of the plan said they didn’t think the boards had looked at all options, argued McBride residents already pay high taxes, questioned if the move would end up costing the taxpayers more in the future, and if the money could be better spent elsewhere.

Fundraising efforts have continued since the feasibility study was submitted to the Regional District Board last fall. One resident, Vern Pawloske, who raised money for the library by collecting pledges for his 200km bike and hike trip up to Berg Lake last spring is planning another hike and bike, this time to the libraries in both Jasper and Valemount before coming back to the McBride library.

Final reading and adoption of the bylaws will be on the agenda for the May 19th Regional District board meeting, says Regional District staff.