Government bureaucracy is sabotaging a good thing at The Grist Mill, says the heritage site’s society chairman.
David Cursons, The Grist Mill Foundation chair, was audibly frustrated as he recounted the multiple delays that have taken place in the request for proposals process set out by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.
“The government efforts to divest itself of its heritage sites seem to have been affected by the exact process they seem compelled to go through,” Cursons said.
Current manager Chris Mathieson submitted his RFP by the deadline at the end of September. There has been no indication from the ministry as to when a decision will be made.
Mathieson has managed The Grist Mill for two years. His current contract runs out in March.
“People have really come on board with it (The Grist Mill) and really enjoy it and that really has to do with the efforts of Chris Mathieson,” Cursons said.
Although in constant conversations with those that might be able to speed up the process, Cursons felt compelled to write a letter to the minister on December 22 calling for an answer quickly.
“This delay is certainly hampering the manager’s ability to market the site and plan for events for the coming year,” he said. “He certainly isn’t getting a good running start when they delay the RFP process.”
Mathieson declined to comment at this time.
In addition to Mathieson’s uncertain employment future two other full-time employees at The Grist Mill are unsure what the future holds for them.
Sharon Dean, manager of communications for the ministry, could not provide a timeframe for a decision.
“Staff is reviewing the response to this call to consider whether any proposals adequately address government’s direction and anticipates completing its process in the near future,” she wrote in an email to the Review.
When pressed as to why the decision was taking so long she wrote, “The ministry knows a decision needs to be made soon. We will let you know as soon as that happens.”
Dean stated she was not able to divulge whether there was another applicant.
“Procurement policy dictates that staff cannot divulge who responded to the RFP, nor how many responses were received as this would compromise the integrity of the process and its competitive nature.”
The Grist Mill features a water driven flour mill built by pioneer Barrington Price in 1877 and 12 acres of agriculture lands, other heritage buildings and gardens.
The site is used for many events throughout the year including the BBQ King competition, and offers a restaurant that uses mostly local ingredients, some grown on site.