North Perth council confirms support for new Agriculture Science Centre

The North Perth water tower in Listowel. (Photo by Ryan Drury)

North Perth council has confirmed its support to bring an Agriculture Science Centre to the community.

A feasibility study recommended a change from a Children’s Museum to an agriculture-focused science centre, with the executive summary noting “The rationale for a Huron Perth Ag Science Centre is that it will be unique in southwestern Ontario by not duplicating existing cultural resources”.

The study, funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, found an earliest opening date of 2024 if property was donated, and facility operational expenses were guaranteed.

The project is expected to cost approximately $13.8-million dollars.

Based on the study, a list of recommendations were drafted. A full list of those recommendations can be found in the Agrimedia section of BlackburnNews.com.

Recommendations in feasibility study:

-A municipally owned site/building in North Perth, ideally to include outdoor opportunities. Although a variety of sites were reviewed, a specific site has not yet been confirmed by the Municipality.

-The building will be 21,000 gross sq. ft. in size, within which there will be 15,000 net sq. feet of useable space, of which 8,500 sq. ft. will be exhibition space. The exhibition space includes 5,500 sq. ft. for core science centre exhibitions, 1,500 sq. ft. of space oriented to young children aged 2-6, and a flex or temporary exhibition space of 1,500 sq. ft. that will allow the Centre to rent exhibitions to offer regular change for visitors.

-Agriculture themes with linkages to science may include the farm to table food process, farm safety, environmental agriculture, indigenous agriculture, careers, art and agriculture, and other themes to be developed in collaboration with the Listowel Agricultural Society, Ontario Federation of Agriculture, and the agriculture industry.

-The Centre will operate with a staff of 10.5 full-time equivalent personnel. Six will be full-time, supported by part-time staff, project-funded students, and volunteers.

-Admission will be charged and other sources of earned income will include membership, retail sales, birthday parties and other venue rentals, as well as charged public programs.

-The Huron Perth Ag Science Centre will operate as a not for profit organization. It is recommended that the Municipality of North Perth own the building but not own the Ag Science Centre. The Huron Perth Ag Science Centre would enter into a long term lease of the space with the Municipality of North Perth, at one dollar per year. In the event that the Centre is not viable operationally, the Municipality of North Perth, as the owner of the building, would determine its future use.

-To support the Science Centre operationally it is assumed that, as owner of the building, the Municipality of North Perth will pay the occupancy costs, similar to its support for the operating costs of public library and recreational facilities. Occupancy costs refers to utilities, repairs and maintenance, insurance and security systems.

-Capital costs for the building and exhibitions are estimated at about $13.8 million, based on new construction, and assuming an opening to the public by April 2024. Capital funds are assumed to be from federal and provincial funding programs and from private sources, with no request for capital funding from municipal or County governments. Local government support for the project by means of providing the land and supporting operating costs will increase the likelihood of federal and provincial capital funding.