Archive for Thursday, February 23, 2012

Douglas County Commission to move ahead with application process for heritage grants

February 23, 2012


Two hours of public debate didn’t sway the Douglas County Commission’s stance on setting aside $350,000 for heritage preservation projects.

On Wednesday night, Commission Chairman Mike Gaughan and Commissioner Nancy Thellman didn’t waiver on their support to fund cultural, natural and heritage preservation projects in 2012. And Commissioner Jim Flory stood strong on his belief that the program should be suspended until better economic times.

In light of a projected $2.3 million budget shortfall in 2013, Flory asked the commission to reconsider moving forward with the 2012 application process for Heritage Conservation Council grants. The county has already allocated $350,000 in 2012 for heritage preservation.

At a time when the county is facing the possibility of cutting funding to social service agencies and is holding off merit wages for county employees and hiring staff, Flory said suspending the program for two years would save the county $700,000.  

“I challenge my fellow commissioners to ask for the candid opinions of social service agencies, county department heads and county employees whether it is fiscally responsible for us to continue to fund these projects to the detriment of their agencies, to their departments and to their employees,” Flory said.

Wednesday’s meeting had plenty of comments from those who said they reaped the benefit from the first round of grants.

Among them were representatives from the Black Jack Battlefield Trust, which received $163,000 to renovate a homestead connected to the land. Preserving sites such as Black Jack Battlefield boosts heritage tourism, which brings in other money to Douglas County, supporters said.

“Our heritage is essential. It is the core of who we are to know where we are and who we are. For too many years, we have ignored it,” said Kerry Altenbernd, who is with the trust. “We have ignored our heritage, so we have suffered economically.”

Even those whose grant application didn’t receive any funding, such as Douglas County Historical Society Director Steve Nowak, spoke in favor of the program.

“It is hard for organizations trying to keep things running at the regular level to achieve the next phase of its vision. This is a grant program that allows that to happen,” Nowak said.

But there were plenty of others urging the commission to not fund the program.

“The county is in dire straights. Spending an additional $350,000, I believe, would be a mistake,” said Edmond Rae, an unemployed engineer.

Frank Male said the county should be spending money on basic needs, especially those that help social service agencies such as Bert Nash, Cottonwood and Independence Inc.

“Now is not the time to spend the money on the icing on the cake. We have to protect the core,” Male said.

In the end, both Thellman and Gaughan said they saw the economic and cultural benefits to funding heritage preservation projects and wanted to see the next round of funding move forward.

“Heritage tourism is economic development,” Thellman said.


irvan moore 6 years ago

somewhere 2 villages are missing their idiot

Mike Myers 6 years ago

Beatnik, I enjoyed your comments on the school consolidation issue. I think you should step back and try to see that this modest public spending on heritage and open space grants enables the whole Douglas County region, Lawrence included to improve and be a better place to live. The more we respect our history, the more educational and recreational amenities we have the more attractive we are to investors both in terms of economic and social investment. The better we are the more people will want to live here, thus our tax base is improved. Really these small grants are seeds that are given to passionate people and committed community members to nourish and grow projects that benefit all. Relating this to the schools issue, these grants will directly influence the viability of the schools in Douglas County, and Lawrence, especially in the core area. If you have some time, like 10 years, just stand back and watch. The projects are coming, they just need some time to germinate and the heritage grants are the seeds, or perhaps the fertilizer (ok, go ahead and make a fertilizer joke now).

If we had to pay an hourly salary for the volunteers in this communty who see these projects to fruition for the benefit of all we would be broke. The fact remains that while we are in tough economic times, we're not broke. The grants help open up projects and other grant opportunities and keep our local construction workers, engineers, and other support people working and in the end we have something we can all be proud of. Win - win if you ask me.

patkindle 6 years ago

the voters put these two air heads in office they should be ashamed, very ashamed

the that is only thier neighbors tax dollars at work so they dont really care, it aint thier money

Mike Ford 6 years ago

you have maybe 150 years of history in this area since it was taken in the 1850's and you don't want to preserve it and yet people claim this great american and kansan history. go figure????

Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 6 years ago

Right on Jim! You are the only one that has any sense.

Mike Myers 6 years ago

How is historic and open space preservation "screwing up" the county?

no_thanks 6 years ago

Thank you Commissioner Flory for your rational view in how taxpayer monies should be allocated. Our History is cherished by locals, and that is something we should embrace, but cease the claim about great tourism resulting from Heritage preservation. The RV's are not rolling into town to see our rich Civil War History. We need to face the fact that Lawrence IS NOT Gettysburg, Vicksburg, or other great Civil War town that actually has tourists interested in its History.

somedude20 6 years ago

How is funding this more important than funding the arts? Yes, there are educational aspects to both however you can creat and learn new things with art. The only new thing history provides is a chance for Republicans to rewrite it.

I say no. If more important things are cut out and have no funding than so should this (and I enjoy history)

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