The City of Port Alberni is notifying residents and tourists that it will halt operations of the tourist trains that run from Port Alberni to the McLean Mill, citing the potential of rising costs to taxpayers.
On Tuesday night, council voted to not fund the train operations for the 2019 season.
Port Alberni Mayor Sharie Minions said operating the train would have cost the city $192,500, or $4,200 per run, this year. She added adding those funds to the budget would lead to a tax increase of around six per cent for residents.
“I want to send a huge thank you out to McLean Mill Society, Industrial Heritage Society and Dr. Jamie Morton (the temporary Alberni Pacific Railway manager) for putting together what I feel actually was a realistic operating budget for the Alberni Pacific Railway and train,” Minions wrote on Facebook. “Although it was too high for council to accept, I do feel it’s the amount of money needed to run the operation properly.”
According to draft budgets from Morton, minimal operations for 2019, which is 60 short runs (like the Santa Run) using the No. 11 diesel locomotive, would cost the city $127,100. Moderate operations, or 45 runs with the Alco diesel locomotive (which does need repairs), would cost the city $192,050.
The Baldwin steam locomotive’s boiler is being replaced and was not supposed to be running this year. It has not been in operation for the last two years.
Council also voted to separate the McLean Mill National Historic Site and the APR.
Minions said she hopes all parties can work on a new solution throughout this year to reduce the funds that would be needed by city to get the trains up and running again. The McLean Mill site operations have not been solidified for 2019 yet as council is waiting on a report on “operations and governance.”
The city has an obligation under a 1996 cost-sharing agreement with Parks Canada to “operate, maintain, conserve and present McLean Mill in the same condition as its conserved state, for a period of 42 years,” ending in 2038.