Grist Mill needs steady hand of committed operator

The province appears to be completely blinded by the potential for success here in the Similkameen.

The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Resource Operations recently issued a Request for Proposal for the Keremeos Grist Mill.

Keremeos and Similkameen residents may find themselves wondering why the province would be interested in actively soliciting a change in venue or direction in operation of the Grist Mill after the two years of growth and reliable operation we have all witnessed at the hands of present operator Chris Mathieson.

The answer, it would seem, is money. The province is in such a hurry to divest itself of provincial heritage sites, that it appears to be completely blinded by the potential for success here in the Similkameen.

Mathieson, who is not able to comment on the RFP during the application process, is  on record last year as saying that he requires a steadily decreasing financial assist from the province over a five year period in order to make the mill self sustaining.

Of any operator in the past decade, and possibly beyond, Mathieson has provided ample evidence that he is in it for the long haul. He’s also done what he promised to do, in terms of increasing functionality and useage of the mill property, as well as posting a steady upward climb in  attendance numbers.

The ministry desperately needs to take a closer look at what has been happening to the Grist Mill property, and start taking a more exclusive approach to the off loading of its heritage properties. We feel it is irresponsible to take an operation that is fulfilling its business objectives and press the reset button on it prematurely.

The province needs to show commitment to operators like Mathieson, who have demonstrated their capability and vision to the local community. It needs to act in good faith, and provide him with a few more years of declining funding until the operation is financially stable.

Most importantly, the province needs to commit to a longer term contract than a year. The uncertainty created by that one aspect alone will most certainly mean that places like the Grist Mill will be doomed to a never ending cycle of operators in it for the short term – if the province is able to  attract anyone at all.