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Town and Wilkie museum board look to resolve rift

The Wilkie and District Museum held its AGM March 19, where discussion included controversy over a newspaper article.
The Wilkie and District Museum isn't anticipating an Easter fundraiser.

WILKIE — The Wilkie and District Museum held its AGM on March 19, where they discussed the year’s financials, upcoming purchases including a new walkway for the museum buildings, and concerns over a Jan. 27 article about the museum in the Unity-Wilkie Press-Herald.

Toward the end of the general meeting following the AGM, outgoing chair Gabe Schwab spoke on his addition to the agenda regarding his concerns about an article in the Unity-Wilkie Press-Herald.

“There was an article recently in the paper, which I immediately came down and talked to the town about because I almost felt that it was almost like a witch hunt against the town. It wasn’t worded the way I would have worded it, and so I would just like to see what the board thought, and maybe an apology should be penned to the town because we shouldn’t have made them look as bad as that article made them look,” Schwab said.

At the time the article was published, there was no comment included from the Town of Wilkie as requests made by the reporter to council for a comment had gone unanswered.

Schwab made a motion that the museum chairperson write a letter to the town and invite Miguel Fenrich, a reporter with and the Battlefords News-Optimist, back to do another article.

Newly installed chair Laura Heilman said as chair she should pen the letter and they could request another story in the summer.

Heilman said she and Bev Barth did the interview with Fenrich, but that the story didn't express what they had intended to put across.

“We wanted to have certain points made that these are our difficulties, but we’re trying to work with whoever will work with us to get them. And our main source of help basically is the town,” Heilman said. 

Despite criticisms aimed at Fenrich by herself, Barth and Clarke Jackson, Heilman said of the outcome of the article, "...the town did push back, which I don't blame them ... [Barth] and I were talking and I said, 'You know, I think we just messed in our nest.' And she said, 'Yeah, I think we did.'"

Jackson, the town's representative to the museum board, approved of Schwab's motion.

"I would appreciate if you guys would call him [Fenrich] back, and get that clarified," he said. "I would also appreciate a letter to the town, stating that this wasn’t your intent, so that we can take it to council, and council can ease the pain a little bit.” 

Jackson added, “On the museum board’s defence, some of the representation from town council hasn’t been the best for your board, and we’re working very hard to change that…we’ve got to work together."

“And we were starting to make good progress,” Schwab said, “And I don’t want to see that lost.” 

“Well, it’s just honest politics, If you’ve got a b***h with the town over something that you think we’re not doing right, by all means, let us know,” Jackson said.


Discussion at town meeting

The museum's then-upcoming AGM was a topic at Wilkie town council's March 13 meeting, at which Jackson said, “... it seems like every meeting you have to instill upon them that they haven’t got thousands and thousands of dollars to put into things."

Councillor David Dornstauder said, “Those buildings are town-owned. So, they shouldn't be doing any alterations on those buildings without going to the town first.” 

“We don't want them repairing stuff willy-nilly ... it should be properly planned and a part of a five-year plan, and we’ve never, never got that from them either, have we?” Dornstauder added.

Jackson also noted a change in audit procedure for the museum.

“The audit was done, and the books were back, and apparently now this is the last year that the museum has to audit the books,” Jackson said, referencing the updated Non-Profit Incorporation Act, which came into force on March 12.

“And thank goodness. It seems like a tough thing to get done,” Jackson said, adding, “I think everything should come out pretty well at the AGM on the 19th.”


At the annual general meeting March 19, outgoing chairperson Gabe Schwab, said in his report, “This year, we will welcome new leadership as I leave the board due to not living in the community any longer, and I want to wish the new board a healthy year to continue working with the town to complete some things that we need out and done.”

He reported, “In 2022, as a board we wound down the garage sale, completed some painting projects, and started plans for some work to be started in 2022. All in all a decent year.” His report also noted the painting of the Ed Elder building and the museum moving their office there, cleaning conducted in the basement of the main building, and the finished painting on the caboose. 

At the election of officers, Laura Heilman was elected as the new chairperson, Karen Clark as the new secretary, and Bev Barth`as the treasurer. All other board members stayed on, with Glenda Hunter-Craig joining the board. Other board members are Clarke Jackson, Gary Neigum, Imre Pallagi, John Heilman, Linda Clark, Samantha Clark, Gabe Schwab and Judy Featherling. 

The financial report for 2022 showed a year-end balance of $454.98, savings of $5,917.63, and member rewards account of $37.66 for a total of $6,410.27. 

Income highlights included $2,250.50 for rallies, $1,222 for a car show barbecue, $1,000 for a Reddi Mart barbecue, and a Canada Day event for $478.20. 

“We really appreciate the Co-op for sponsoring the pancake breakfast on Canada Day, they supply everything, including the bodies to work,” Laura Heilman said.

Heilman, as treasurer, was able to speak on what the report described as a ‘sizeable deficit’ of $13,474.88

“... for some reason or another, our grants are slow coming in this year … Canada Summer Jobs has been completed, but the cheque didn’t come until 2023, so it will be in that total,” Heilman said.

“And as well as these, the culture grant will be coming in shortly … it doesn’t look good at the moment, but we are still fine. And hopefully, we get enough fundraising events in the summer to bring it up some more,” Heilman added.

The AGM was adjourned at 2:26 p.m., after which they held a public March 19 meeting, distributing agendas and minutes to the public. 

Discussing fundraising, Heliman said she doesn't anticipate an Easter event. 

“We didn’t do anything for Valentine’s day, mainly because it was cold and ugly and lots of snow. Easter is doubtful…” 

The board also discussed saving the sign from the Roxy theatre, which is in the Ramsey building and is currently under distress. Barth spoke to that, having spoken to some who would be able to remove it.

“He was very adamant that only professionals should touch the sign,” Barth said.  “At any rate, that’s the original sign, and it is ten feet long, fifteen feet long, it’s big…some of us were thinking that back in the day, that if Wilkie was going to renovate their main street, it would be nice to have the original sign…” Barth said. 

“To get that thing restored, I would imagine that you’re looking at over $20,000 dollars…the Town of Wilkie most likely wouldn’t do anything like that, but $20,000 used properly in the museum would go to a lot better home than that sign,” said Clarke Jackson, the town's representative to the museum board.

“I’m not saying that the town isn’t interested in looking after some of these things … we’ve got so many things on our plate right now … You’ve gotta pick and choose your fights. There are many things in the museum that needs looking after to keep the museum doors open,” Jackson said. 

“...and I don’t know if anyone else watches the news or what’s going on in surrounding countries, but we’re losing more museums all the time. Shellbrook is done, Unity’s having trouble, and they had a big following in their museum,” Jackson added.

The discussion of the Roxy sign was tabled until spring.

The museum is also planning on building new walkways or fixing the existing wooden ones, with a motion made in the fall to purchase lumber. 

— with files from Miguel Fenrich