06/30/06 — Museum gets a break from yard chores

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Museum gets a break from yard chores

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on June 30, 2006 1:52 PM

Wayne County officials plan to cut the county museum's grass this year instead of cutting it a big check.

Museum leaders, concerned over its financial stability, have been assured by the county that it will help maintain the building and grounds and perform other duties, such as printing and hosting its Web site, that will help put the facility on an even keel.

The county included $12,000 for the museum in the budget approved this week by the county Board of Commissioners, a $1,500 increase over last year. The association had asked for $30,000.

Preston Garris, the president of the Wayne County Historical Association, which operates the museum, said the association's membership is pleased with the outcome. He said museum officials and county Manager Lee Smith had discussed the possibility of the county exchanging a direct allocation for in-kind services for more than a year.

The museum relies on donations for much of its operating costs. But donations have slipped, Garris said, and the facility has had to pay for an unusually large number of repairs in the past year.

The association spent $15,000 this year just to repair the building's roof, upgrade its heating and air conditioning system and paint its exterior. Repairs to the building's alarm system alone cost $4,000.

Garris said he, historical association Treasurer Velda Faye Howell and the museum's director, Janet Clayton, sat down with Wayne County Manager Lee Smith and Brant Brown, the county buildings and grounds superintendent, recently to talk about how the county could best help the museum.

Paying private contractors to do the work the county has offered to provide has been eating up much of the museum's budget, Ms. Clayton said.

"We have some events coming up in the next few months, and we are so happy that the condition of the museum will be greatly improved," she said.

Garris said the county's offer to provide $30,000 worth of work will likely save the museum closer to $35,000 worth of expenses.

"The value goes further, because it frees up our volunteers to index the artifacts and give tours rather than having to do maintenance. And when the volunteers give more attention to the artifacts, that improves our security and accountability," Garris said.

Under the terms of the deal, the museum would be treated like one of the county buildings. County workers would mow grass and trim shrubbery -- chores that cost the museum $2,400 a year to hire someone to perform, Garris said.

Major repair work would still be the responsibility of the Historical Association.

The county also has offered to clean the museum twice a week, a job that it has cost the association $1,800 a year to have done. The county will also strip the hardwood floors upstairs and clean the carpets downstairs twice a year. If the association could afford to have that done, Garris said, it could have cost as much as $1,500.

The county will provide routine maintenance on the new heating and air conditioning system and the museum will come on line with the county's phone and computer network, Garris said. That will be a savings, too, he said. The association has been paying $700 a year just for the computer hook-ups.

The county also agreed to do small touch-up paint work outside as it's needed and has agreed to provide maintenance on the elevator.

"The elevator contract was very expensive," said Garris. "I believe we were paying $2,400 a year for the maintenance agreement on the elevator, so that's another big savings."

The association is paying $1,450 to have the town meeting hall, which was built in 1858, brought up to code, and the county has agreed to help keep it in shape. The old church weathers well, said Garris, but not as well as a newer building.

The county also will help the museum print brochures for distribution to tourism centers along I-95, creating an estimated savings of $1,200 a year.