By Trevor Busch
With the Taber and District Chamber of Commerce planning construction of a new downtown building, the Taber Irrigation Impact Museum is eyeing that organization’s present location space inside the Taber Community Centre for a potential expansion.
In December 2019, town council passed a motion to acquire approximately 1.3 acres of land located at 5431 47th Avenue. The purchase included two separate parcels of lots for a total of $904,000, one of which will be utilized by the chamber for construction of a new building.
In a June 4 letter to council from Karen Ingram on behalf of the Taber and District Museum Society, she made a formal request for use of the current space adjacent to the Taber Irrigation Impact Museum that will eventually be vacated by the chamber.
“As I have mentioned at council meetings, we are quite limited in our space here,” stated Ingram in her letter at council’s July 20 meeting. “If we had the additional space for exhibit areas it would enhance the museum experience for locals and tourists alike. It would also alleviate our storage problems as we could have far more stored artifacts on display telling the story of our community.”
While acknowledging the concerns of the museum with regard to space, Coun. Joe Strojwas wanted to see investigation of alternative facilities or locations that might be more attractive.
“I really understand and realize that the museum is in a quite cramped corner there. I think probably it would make more sense to work with them and find them a larger, more visible location rather than this site here. It’s difficult to get in and get at — and I know that they’ve seen that site coming available, so they’re jumping on it. I wonder if we shouldn’t evaluate with Taber and District Chamber of Commerce and see if there’s some spaces available there (new building), and we don’t know what’s going to happen on the other property before it, because there’s certainly some options that have come available for us.”
Strojwas went on to suggest local agricultural organizations become involved with the museum in order to promote their own history.
“We’re in an irrigation district. If you put together the sugar beet growers, the irrigation, the corn people, and the potato growers, I’m sure that we could make some pretty neat museum displays if we partner with all those entities in this area here, rather than just allocate a tight little corner there for them. I think it would be good for us to take a good, hard look to see if we can’t get better exposure for the museum.”
Coun. Jack Brewin was also supportive of finding an alternative location, while suggesting the chamber’s planned building would be an ideal place for a museum.
“I would love to have it incorporated somehow into the new chamber building, visible from the highway, and it would be nice to see it so it’s not so hidden in a corner. I would support definitely looking into something where we could incorporate it into that building.”
Suggesting council was overstepping its authority in discussing various occupants for the chamber’s new building without their involvement, Coun. Garth Bekkering cautioned against treading too far down this garden path.
“The suggestion bears some thought, but I think it’s kind of a longer-term process regarding the chamber of commerce new location, to put it there makes a lot of sense — but it’s not our building. So we should have a discussion with the chamber of commerce first before we do that — it’s their building. I’m not opposed to giving the space that’s going to be vacated to them, we can always change our mind when they go to a different place. And if you want to amalgamate, the potato growers, sugar beet growers, corn growers — oh boy, that’s a big project, big job, big bucks.”
Strojwas clarified that he wasn’t suggesting amalgamation of the various agricultural organizations previously mentioned, merely collaboration.
“We wouldn’t amalgamate them all together, we would just get them to participate in some history behind all of their different organizations in the area.”
Mayor Andrew Prokop was also concerned about the tone of the discussion regarding the chamber’s proposed building.
“I would agree with Councillor Bekkering also, I don’t know that the chamber has spelled out exactly what they’re looking to put in that particular new location.”
Taking some wind out of the sail, CAO Cory Armfelt pointed out the chamber was close to finalizing their plans for the building and might not be very accommodating of any major proposed changes. Public details regarding the size or design of the structure have so far been sparse.
“There has been never a motion made directing administration to work with the chamber of commerce to integrate any sort of museum concept into that building. The chamber of commerce is quite far down the path with regards to their final plans for that building, and I would suspect that we would see that come to MPC (Municipal Planning Commission) within the next month or two. We’ve very successfully worked with the chamber to get a site plan and concept for that building based off of council’s previous motions. And so we are nearly at the finish line with the chamber and being prepared to bring that to MPC for their consideration.”
Following discussion on July 20, council voted unanimously to acknowledge and thank the Taber and District Museum Society Board for their request for additional space; and agreed to evaluate the museum expansion possibilities into the space currently occupied by the Taber and District Chamber of Commerce once that group moves into their proposed building.
At the same meeting, council took the first step in assisting the chamber in securing a $1 million loan for construction of a landscaped parking lot and sani-dump as part of the same building complex. The motion still needs final approval at third reading before passing.
Estimated annual payments for the loan would be approximately $61,099.88.