Douglas County's historical societies will have to get used to a new way of receiving county funding.
County commissioners on Wednesday night threw their support behind making Destination Management Inc. distributor of funding to the five historical entities.
DMI is the management entity for Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area, which includes Douglas and 40 other counties in eastern Kansas and western Missouri. DMI is based in Lawrence and headed by Judy Billings.
Commissioner Charles Jones initially put forth the idea more than a year ago for the new funding process as a way to streamline promotion of local history. Commissioners Bob Johnson and Jere McElhaney supported the initiative. County Administrator Craig Weinaug and Billings have had meetings discussing the initiative with the historical societies.
"To describe their response as enthusiastic would be a stretch, but I think they understand why the county wanted to do this," Weinaug said.
Historical society representatives at the meeting expressed anxiety about getting used to the new process and working with a new board under DMI.
"We certainly hope this will have a positive effect on Freedom's Frontier Heritage Area and have a major positive impact on Douglas County," said Paul Bahnmaier, president of Lecompton Historical Society.
Martha Parker, director of Wakarusa River Valley Heritage Museum, agreed. She also said she hoped the county would at least continue current funding levels.
Billings said DMI and the heritage area will work with the historical societies to bring a greater awareness to local history.
"I want to make this very clear that this isn't about DMI or Judy Billings taking over the historical societies," she said.
Commissioners commended the historical societies for working together. In the past, the county has distributed funds to each of the historical entities. The amount divided among them has fluctuated between $200,000 to $250,000. The entities include the Douglas County, Clinton, Lecompton and Santa Fe Trail historical societies and sometimes Black Jack Battlefield.
Commissioners still have to approve a written contract with DMI.