Watkins Community Museum of History is struggling and needs more money, Douglas County commissioners were told Wednesday.
Sluggish fundraising and new expenses have caused financial hardships, museum director Rebecca Phipps said.
Phipps and Bill Myers, treasurer for the Douglas County Historical Society board of directors, which oversees the museum, appeared before commissioners as department and agency budget hearings got under way.
Phipps requested an additional $14,500 be included in the 2007 budget "just to maintain what we do now." That would bring the total to $135,000.
Commissioners weren't happy with the request, as the museum has battled economic problems in recent years. In 2004, a part-time consultant was hired to help generate donations and grants, set goals and come up with a plan to secure the museum's future.
That follows a management change that saw longtime museum director Steve Jansen ousted, as well as other changes on the board. Phipps replaced Jansen.
"We're not getting anywhere," Commissioner Bob Johnson said. "We can find the ($14,500) to put in the budget, but does it really, really help?"
Commissioner Charles Jones questioned whether the historical society board was doing what is necessary for fundraising. He also asked whether the museum should make cuts to pay for hiring a fundraiser.
Phipps noted that the museum had developed new exhibits during the past year and eliminated others that had existed for 20 years. She said artifacts were being catalogued and entered into a database, something that wasn't done before.
Without the additional funding, "the museum might as well close," Phipps said.
Commissioners made no decisions concerning the museum funding request nor others that were presented.
"Somebody has to figure out how this institute breaks out of the mold it is in," Johnson said.
Later, during the Wednesday night County Commission meeting, Jones suggested that a "retreat" be organized for the museum and the historical society board to discuss what to do about the museum.
The overall county budget will be approved later this month after other hearings and adjustments are made to the budget as proposed by County Administrator Craig Weinaug.
That budget calls for more than $54.18 million in expenditures, including contingency funds that might not need to be spent. The proposed 30.18 mill levy is slightly higher than the 2005 mill levy of 30.099. That is due primarily to recent changes in railroad and utility valuations.
Changes could be made, however, as commissioners over the next few days hear requests for funding.
Among other funding requests heard Wednesday:
l David Johnson, chief executive at Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, spoke for continued funding of the Working to Recognize Alternative Possibilities program in school systems. He is seeking $225,000 from the county for a program that last year provided mental health services for 3,199 students. Funding also is sought from the school districts and the City of Lawrence.
l The Douglas County Fair Board of Directors wants $56,971 for additional seating at the outdoor arena at the fairgrounds. The new bleachers would seat 180 people and replace older bleachers that would be moved to the stage area for music shows. The funding also would allow for building a new "crow's nest" or public address and officials' box.
l The Lawrence Chamber of Commerce leaders requested to add $75,534 to Douglas County Economic Development.