History is fluid so it isn’t a surprise the South Similkameen Museum Society has changed plans.
The non-profit volunteer group recently switched gears from moving the former provincial police building and current museum to it’s new site. Now the group is focusing efforts to ensure they meet accessibility requirements at the new building which is the former Masonic Lodge on 9th Avenue.
“It became obvious that we were facing challenges moving the old building and that when we did we still wouldn’t have the new building open,” Rob Showell, president of the museum society said. “It only made sense to turn our focus to the new building to making sure we meet accessibility codes.”
The museum society bought the former Masonic Lodge late in 2015. Since then volunteers have been working on a plan to make the building operational.
They group received word earlier this year they’d received a $50,000 Canada 150 grant from the heritage branch to move the former police building to the new location.
When looking into moving the building the group was told by Village staff that structural assessments would need to be completed and a formal plan submitted detailing the move.
Showell said when those assessments were undertaken it was found that the chimney would need to be removed and part of the roof to move the building. There was also a chance there might be asbestos or other toxic chemicals in the building.
“There is some structural damage to the building you can see by just looking at it,” Showell said. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense to move the building and then have to spend a lot of money to repair it at this point. It would have taken pretty much all of the grant to get that done. We’re really focusing on getting the Masonic Lodge ready so we can start operating the museum from there.”
Plans are firming up on how the building can be retrofitted to so both floors are accessible.
Showell said the museum was talking to Ron Peck of Greyback Construction earlier in the year about plans to possibly put in elevators or build ramps and retrofit washrooms.
“We are in the process of revitalizing those plans. We’ve looked at the elevator option and although it would be great we would be looking at a $3,000 bill a year just for inspection. Right now we’re seriously considering ramps. One in the front and one in the back to get down into the basement.”
Showell expects in the next week or two a special meeting with the membership will be held to determine exactly what route the museum will take.
“We’re in the process now of getting not only the plans solidified but we know that winter is coming and we face a shortage of contractors in Keremeos so we’re very hopeful that we can get this done,” he said.
The deadline to use the $50,000 grant is the end of March 2018. Showell said at this point the museum has not applied for an extension.
“That’s something we might look into when we know exactly what we’re doing,” he said.
With plans now shifted, volunteers were on-hand at the museum Tuesday morning to start moving the thousands of items in the collection to the Masonic Lodge building.
Several museum members helped out but a team from Valley First Credit Union did most of the heavy lifting.
“It was so great seeing them come out. They offered to volunteer their time. There really is a lot of community support for the museum and we’ve built a lot of momentum here and we plan to continue building on that.”
The goal is to have the Masonic Lodge fully accessible so that it can be opened for the 2018 season.
“We have a ways to go but that’s what we’re aiming for,” he said.