Mark Rendell
Mark Rendell

New plan to save the Robertson Headframe 

Private donations could be accepted by the City in trust
Heritage Committee Chair and NWT Mining Heritage Society Vice-President Mike Vaydik hopes Yellowknifers will donate to a campaign to save the headframe.
photos Angela Gzowski

A new plan to save the Robertson Headframe, through a mix of private donations and City funding, got its first airing at Wednesday’s heritage committee meeting.

The idea is to have the NWT Mining Heritage Society fundraise with the City holding the money in trust and potentially committing cash from the Heritage Committee’s $75,000 surplus.

The City can’t get involved directly in fundraising, said councillor Adrian Bell, who sits on the committee. But by establishing a trust fund and issuing tax receipts to donors it would “give people a lot of confidence that this isn’t a fly-by-night, kiss-our-money goodbye, type of operation,” said Bell.

The plan – a response to the City’s aversion to shouldering the headframe restoration cost – is still very much in its infancy.

“At this point we’re just asking permission to collect money and signaling our intent about what that money is going to be used for,” said Bell.

“Council hasn’t discussed this at all, but I believe a lot of them would see the merit in this because we always talk about building partnerships, raising funds, applying private funds to all these projects,” he said.

The cost of maintaining the head frame is slated at $435,000 over the next 10 years, according to a report from consulting firm Concentric Associates. This includes $235,000 up front for a new roof and smaller repairs, then a further $200,000 over the next five to 10 years. It’s assumed current owner Newmont Mining Corp. is still willing to give up the structure for free.

Amount of money “doable”

“That amount is conceivable, that’s doable, if you consider Yellowknife is a pretty generous place for everyday citizens and we also have some mining related corporations based here,” said Mike Vaydik, chair of the committee and Vice-President of the Mining Heritage Society. “I worked it out on the back of a napkin and that’s $2.20 a year for every citizen in Yellowknife. That’s not a lot to commemorate our history as a mining town.”

Last September, NWT Mining Heritage Society President Walt Humphries and Councillor and local businessman Niels Konge both committed $1,000 toward the cause during a tense council meeting which staved off the headframe’s demolition.

In addition to the $75,000 heritage committee surplus that may be up for grabs, there could be as much as $50,000 from the City’s department of planning and lands’ Heritage Preservation Incentive. The matching grant is available for the upkeep of heritage properties in Yellowknife. To be eligible, however, the headframe would need to be listed as a heritage building.

Vaydik is hopeful private citizens will donate to the campaign and council will chip in money once the fundraiser starts gathering momentum.

“If we were to show that we had half of the money right now, and some proposal to raise considerably more of the rest, I think it would sway council,” he said.

Bell says he was on the fence about using public money.

“It hinged on whether private money was being applied to this,” he said. “But I’ve also been the fence about why there’s a $75,000 surplus sitting with the Heritage Committee. If this is not something the Heritage Committee should do, then there’s nothing it should do.”

The next step is for the committee to get advice from administration about establishing the trust fund. The Mining Heritage Society will be able to start campaigning once the fund is in place.

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