By Tim Eberly
Once again, the Clack Museum Foundation is in the red and seeking assistance.
At the Havre City Council meeting Monday evening, the Clack Museum Foundation requested the city waive the $1,000 annual rent payment currently due. The City Council forwarded the request to its finance committee to gather more information before the full council makes a decision.
"We are struggling for funding," Elaine Morse, one of 10 members of the Clack foundation board, said in an interview Tuesday. "This is one of the things that we requested to make our ends meet."
The Clack Museum Foundation, which leases out the Heritage Center, narrowly sidestepped losing the building in August because it didn't have money to make a final $15,000 payment due to the U.S. Postal Service. After the foundation issued a public plea for help, an anonymous donor made a $15,000 pledge. During that same time, the museum collected $3,500 in other donations. The $18,500 was used to cover the $15,000 payment and for operationing expenses.
"It's a real uphill battle," Morse said. "The Clack foundation serves as the caretaker for the Heritage Center. It would be a shame to let it go down for a lack of support."
According to Morse, the Heritage Center costs roughly $5,000 per month to maintain and operate, including a $3,000-a-month power bill. To counter the overhead, the Clack foundation rents office space to several businesses and nonprofit agencies in the Heritage Center.
A Clack foundation endowment fund currently tops off at $170,000, but the interest from the fund is not available until it reaches $250,000. The foundation board members are urgently searching for funding from state and federal grants.
"We're already running as bare bones as we can," Morse said. Obtaining a grant is "probably going to be our savior."
Foundation vice president Gary Wilson said today the foundation will be able to meet its bill this month if the City Council waives the $1,000 rent this year.
The foundation has some extra expenses this month, Wilson said. It has to come up with money to match a grant to replace the Heritage Center windows, plus pay a consultant on the window project.
Insurance is also due this month but the foundation has money to pay that bill, Wilson said.
The foundation has been working to become a more vital part of the Havre community.
In August, children were treated by the foundation to a free tour of the Wahkpa Chu'gn bison kill site. Recent activities at the Heritage Center include a lecture series on the history of the area, a photo display of Rocky Boy's Reservation, celebrity luncheons, and Native American arts and crafts classes.
"We're always trying to do things to raise the public awareness," Morse said. "We want increased traffic in the building. That's what we're trying to do: make it a civic center."
Ten days before obtaining the anonymous donation, the museum acquired $53,130 from federal Community Transportation Enhancement Program funds for the replacement of the building's roof. In order to receive the financial assistance for the roof, the foundation has to match the money with $7,300 of its own funds.
Wilson said a foundation and an individual have pledged enough money to cover that match.