Kneehill County councillors voted unanimously in favour of committing $25,000 to the Kneehill Historical Society’s plans for a new $1.5 million museum building. The decision was made at the March 14 regular meeting of council.
Councillors heard a detailed presentation from society spokesperson Rosalie Lammle, with several members of the society executive present for support.
Lammle stated the society has a group of about 30 volunteers who collectively donate about 8,000 hours a year into the Kneehill Historical Museum, which is located in the Town of Three Hills.
Lammle stated the society has begun a fundraising project for a new building and was requesting a $50,000 grant from Kneehill County.
“We’re here because we want to expand our museum,” said Lammle to council, who accompanied her comments with an artist’s conception of the proposed facility. It was noted plans have been tweaked since that drawing was made.
She stated the new facility’s expanded dimensions would allow for the hosting of other museum’s exhibits, including other regional museums.
More room, noted Lammle, means more space to tell the entire story of Kneehill County which includes the museum’s collection of about 20,000 artefacts. Lammle said the museum has collected, “…good stuff from all across the county.”
She explained the historical society benefitted greatly from a $500,000 donation from a generous friend’s estate; the society decided about $400,000 of that would be earmarked for the new building project.
The funds also help the society with their intention to apply for a Community Facility Enhancement Grant (CFEP) which requires matching funds; the society hopes to raise $750,000 towards the total cost of the project
Lammle stated the society already began talks with a large number of local contractors and companies for this project.
Coun. Carrie Fobes asked how many visitors the Kneehill Historical Museum gets per year. Lammle responded the museum receives between 2,500 and 3,000 visitors in an average year, which includes school groups, seniors lodges and tourists.
Additionally, the society also receives research requests, noting the museum has an impressive collection of history books.
Coun. Ken King asked how close the society is to raising $750,000, with Lammle responding with all commitments the total is roughly $525,000. “It’s quite a job, fundraising, because it takes a little while to get those commitments,” said Lammle.
Coun. Fobes stated she had a ratepayer contact her on the weekend and ask if there was enough room to expand the existing museum. Lammle answered yes, there is ample room to the south.
Coun. Laura Lee Machell-Cunningham asked if the society has looked into federal grants. Lammle answered the society was thinking of going solar power, “…but ditched that one.”
Lammle continued that the society hasn’t found any federal capital grants for its museum project, with capital grants being difficult to find in any event.
She added that the society hopes for a June 2024 completion but is willing to build the project in phases if that’s necessary.
Reeve Jerry Wittstock stated what all other councillors seemed to think. “I would love to see this happen,” said Wittstock.
Later, councillors debated the request.
County Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Mike Haugen noted, if the non-budgeted request was granted, funds could come out of the council contingency account but if the entire $50,000 was granted the funds would come out of reserves.
Haugen also clarified if county funds were granted, they would be earmarked for the society and given over when the CFEP grant is approved.
Councillors unanimously approved committing $25,000 for the Kneehill Historical Society’s new building project.
By Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Mar 23, 2023