From John Gibney, Monroe County Historical Museums, Michigan:
Dear Friends of local history,
The continuing economic downturn is forcing our elected Monroe County leaders to review all of our departments and the services that we provide. We are facing one of the most dire times in our history! The Museum is slated for DRASTIC CUTS which will result in the end of most of our programs and services. Please refer to the article in today's Monroe Evening News copied below (December 1, 2010). We need our friends and allies to come to our aid. If you have participated in our programs or benefited by our positive role in local government, please consider taking the time to write an email or call our local Monroe County Commissiners in support of the Museum.
Thank you all for the support you have given us over the years,
John Gibney, Director
Monroe County Historical Museums
126 South Monroe
Monroe, Michigan 48161
Historical Museum funding on chopping block / DRASTIC MEASURES
by Joshua Kennedy
Evening News staff writer , last modified December 01. 2010 11:17AM
The timing is ironic.
As Monroe County celebrates the River Raisin battlefield's designation as the newest national park in the country, the Monroe County Board of Commissioners is looking at severely cutting the Monroe County Historical Museum's funding.
The board still is wrestling with at least a $4 million deficit in 2011and the historical museum at 126 S. Monroe St. is in the panel's crosshairs. The museum is sure to be one of the topics discussed Thursday during a special meeting of the county board.
The museum cost Monroe County $289,344, according to amended 2010 budget documents. Two proposals considered by the county board's finance committee last week would cut that amount to either $194,876 or $153,105 depending on which option the board chooses.
"I'm not surprised that this happened," museum Director John Gibney told the finance committee. "Let's face it: We're not the sheriff's department and we're not firemen. We're certainly not a homeless shelter. We're a ripe target."
Either plan calls for drastic reductions in personnel expenses. Proposal A, which would reduce staffing at the museum to 15 hours a week, would represent a 47 percent cut from the current year funding.
Proposal B is less severe, but still drastic, reducing staff to 24 hours each week. The second proposal represents a reduction in funding of about 33 percent. Currently, the museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays year-round.
The facility also is open to the public on Sundays in May through December.
"It kind of bothers me," Mr. Gibney said, "that during the past two years I haven't seen a lot of people the elected officials really come in and see what we've been up to. In six years, I've given you nothing but good news.
"We've reduced our full-time work force to 60 percent and 80 percent for the part-timers," Mr. Gibney said, referring to the five people who work at the museum. "We've been setting attendance records the last three years.
"In May of 2009 we set the all-time attendance record at the museum," Mr.Gibney told the commissioners. "We beat that in 2010. Most months we've broken our records and our lantern tour sold out completely in 2010.
"We are a major economic engine for the county," he said, adding that these records are being set "with half the staff."
"Here's the news," Mr. Gibney said. "We make money."
The museum has snared an estimated $1.9 million in out-of-state spending, Mr. Gibney said, citing the county's Matrix consultant study of countywide operations. "That's not according to our figures.
"Even if you just take the people out-of-county, averaging $50 a person, we brought in at least $800,000," Mr. Gibney said. "That's the story that's not getting out there."
The battlefield and the impending sesquicentennial celebrations of the War of 1812 are two opportunities on the near horizon that Monroe County could capitalize on if the museum remains open and operational.
"We are poised to be the epicenter of those two major celebrations," Mr. Gibney said. "A lot of different things can happen with that."
Pinching off the museum funding at this crucial point in regional history, "Would end major economic opportunities here," Mr. Gibney said. "We have the plans and the staff in place to make all this work."