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We didnt get that far
Museum task force proposes reducing, not ending, city funding
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A task force created to consider the fate of Platteville’s two city museums released a report in late July on how to reduce annual city funding from $250,000 to $100,000.

That task force report was created without the input of one of its members — Eric Fatzinger, president of the Jamison Museum Association, who resigned from the task force.

Fatzinger has a different view as to what the city should be doing with its museums than the task force recommended.
In an email to task force member John Miller, Fatzinger wrote that reducing or eliminating the city’s $250,000 annual museum funding “was the intent of the city manager, and I believe one or two alderpersons (who were not reelected [in April]) … That was not the intent of the alderpersons who originally requested the establishment of the Task Force.”

The task force report, which the Common Council is scheduled to consider at its meeting this week, proposes converting the museum into a 501(c)3 organization, the Greater Platteville Historical Society, to which would be assigned the Rollo Jamison Trust Agreement. The society would be run by the combined Jamison Museum and Mining Museum boards, and museum employees would become historical society employees. The society would lease the museum buildings from the city for $1 per year.

The task force proposes cutting annual city funding from $250,000 in 2013 and 2014 gradually to $100,000 by 2019 and after that, through grant funding — possibly from the U.S.’ 200 active mining companies — and a 1 percent increase in the city room tax.

Funding is on the mind of task force member Dennis Cooley, assistant chancellor for university advancement and executive director of the UW–Platteville Foundation.

“One common denominator among all nonprofits that are flourishing is they have an eye on revenue generation,” he told the Common Council July 23. “Somebody on staff has to have an eye on revenue generation. It’s not supporting even one staff position.”

Reducing city funding was proposed by City Manager Larry Bierke as part of the first draft of the city’s 2013 budget. After that was removed from the budget, Bierke formed a task force on how to wind down annual city funding.

“The requirement was for the committee to get to a revenue-neutral position,” said Cooley. “We never got that far.”

The task force came up with two sets of recommendations in addition to converting to a nonprofit. The report proposes establishing a timeline for implementing changes in staffing, hours of operation, exhibits and special events. The report proposes staffing summer hours with volunteers instead of spending $43,170 on limited-term employees, along with closing five months during the winter, saving the costs of three full-time employees. The report also proposes asking the Jamison Museum Association’s 120 volunteers to donate three hours per week to help operate the museum.

The report also proposes pursuing “other funding options,” including asking UW–Platteville and its Southwest Wisconsin Room for archival assistance, the 400 UWP alumni with mining degrees, and UWP’s Pioneer Academic Center for Community Engagement for assistance.

Fatzinger disagrees with the apparent goal of reducing city museum funding.

“I do agree that this is an issue of budget,” he wrote. “But the answer is what priorities does the City of Platteville hold in terms of its cultural heritage and history, and what kind of community do we want to be? Do we value education and those things that lead to a better and more vibrant quality of life, or not? Do we also stop funding Rountree Gallery and other cultural activities? …

“One of the things that sets this community part is we have a cultural and historical gold mine/diamond in our midst with our museum and the lead mine. How we choose to support, encourage, and build on its value as both an attraction for visitors and for the education of ourselves and our future residents says a lot about us as a community. The almighty dollars is not always the bottom line. Some things, regardless of their cost, have an intrinsic and historical value that cannot have a price tag attached.”

Another person opposed to spinning off the museum is Marilyn Gottschalk, a member of the museum board, who told the Common Council that the museums should not be privatized “to depend on grants, donations and other problematic sources of funding.”