The board of the county museum discussed several options to deal with a shrinking budget including adding or raising fees and moving the museum to a less expensive location.
Bud Baldwin, the chair of the H. Earl and Margaret Turner Clack Memorial Museum board, said the initial request from the county commission was to reduce the proposed budget, already reduced 10 percent from last year’s budget, by another $4,500 — the equivalent of the entire budget for the Wahkpa Chu’gn Buffalo Jump.
Baldwin told the people at a meeting Monday night that the commission had found an additional $1,500 in emergency funds to apply to the museum board’s budget, but additional cuts still were needed.
“It’s very tight over there,” he said.
Several options on how to increase funds or cut expenses were discussed during the meeting. One topic was the renewal of the space leased in the Holiday Village Mall, the lease for which is expiring this fall.
The board had discussed letting the lease lapse and moving to space in the Great Northern Fairgrounds, but that discussion was short due to the lack of appropriate space in those facilities.
Board member Gary Wilson said there simply is not any space properly heated — or air conditioned — to house a museum at the fairgrounds.
John and Anna Brumley, who manage the Wahkpa Chu’gn archaeological site and tourist attraction, told the board that they are considering raising the basic rates for tours there. They proposed raising the rates, now at $7 for adults, $6 for seniors and $4 for children, to $10, $8 and $5, respectively. Tours for school children would remain at $3 each, Anna Brumley said.
The board members and the Brumleys agreed that the current rates are very low for tourism sites, and that increasing them could be appropriate.
Elaine Morse, chair of the museum funding foundation, added that the additional money found by the county probably should go to keeping the funding up for Wahkpa Chu’gn. The $4,500 originally proposed was low for its operation, she said.
The point was made several times, both about Wahkpa Chu’gn and the county museum, that low or free admission may be counterproductive by implying that nothing is there to see.
“Do we not look good because we are free?” board member Raela Hulett asked about the museum.
Several options about increasing revenue for the museum were discussed, including potentially charging admission.
Museum manager John Gilbert said that may be counterproductive, especially after the tourism season. Many of the people who visit the museum are children — or spouses — who come in while whomever they are with are shopping, he said. Charging a fee may actually reduce the visitation, he said.
Board member Judi Dritshulas said one solution may be asking for a voluntary donation, especially for children.
Morse suggested another solution — which could prevent complaints about county taxpayers being charged — would be to charge only people who are not Hill County residents.
Wilson said the county museum in Phillips County already charges for entrance, although the museum in Blaine County does not.
A donation jar, with proceeds going to the funding foundation, already is in the museum.
It was agreed that if an entry fee is charged, that it would only be to the display section of the museum, with no charge to enter the gift shop.
Baldwin directed Gilbert to research the charging of fees by museums in the area and in the state and to present the information to the board before its next meeting.