Needing an upgrade
The exterior of the local museum in Russell Township is in need of repairs but there is no decision yet as to which community group will be responsible for its upkeep.   Van Dusen photo

Tom Van Dusen
Villager Contributor
RUSSELL – The Russell Village and District Historical Society and Russell Township council are at odds over who should pay for repairs to the exterior of the former church building comprising part of the local museum. The other part is the former fire hall beside it.

While the historical society maintains that, as a municipally owned property, the township should pay, some councillors and administrators feel fundraising should be undertaken to cover at least part of the costs. Museum volunteers have countered they can’t be expected to raise more funds than they already do in support of special events at the museum. 

Estimates obtained from specialized consultants are $55,000 for new partial cladding – about four feet from the bottom all around – and other upgrades, and $139,800 for full cladding. Society members believe a local contractor could do the work for much less.

At one point, municipal administration suggested that the building be redone in vinyl siding. That, the society says, defeats the whole concept of maintaining a public historic building in an area being eyed as a heritage conservation zone. 

Constructed in 1856 and believed to be the oldest public building in the township, the frame deconsecrated Baptist church was flat-bedded across the Castor River to its current location at the corner of Church and Concession streets about 30 years ago.

It became the Keith Boyd Community Museum named for its founder, a noted local historian and artifact collector. In connection with the move, some new boards were added to the bottom of the building and they now need to be replaced. The entire building needs new paint.

Society members point to an agreement made with the township in 2005 which specifies that the municipality finance basic operational expenditures such as telephone, electricity, heat, security system and insurance, as well as capital renovations to maintain the site. The agreement is renewed automatically every year unless terminated by the township following 90 days written notice.

On its side of the agreement, the society must ensure proper operations of the museum, collect, catalogue and exhibit relevant artifacts, establish a yearly budget, obtain permission from the municipality before making any alterations, work with recreation staff to conduct any capital improvements, and provide a yearly activity report.