Mystery museum on bond ballot - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Mystery museum on bond ballot

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Posted: Sunday, January 11, 2004 2:46 am | Updated: 4:53 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

Chandler is asking voters to approve $8.5 million in bonds for a museum without knowing where or when the facility would be constructed, who would operate it or where funds to run it would come from.

The City Council last week voted unanimously to include the museum as part of more than $153.7 million in bonds that will be put on the May 18 ballot.

Mayor Boyd Dunn and council members said it's not unusual for the city to request bond funds for capital projects such as the proposed 20,000-square-foot museum without having a funding source for maintenance and operations.

"We've done it in the past," Councilwoman Patti Bruno said. "I think between the citizens, the Chandler Historical Society and the Museum Advisory Board we'll come up with it. I think everyone needs to put their heads together to try to find ways to fund it."

Bruno and Councilman Phill Westbrooks said they would like to see maintenance and operations budgets planned for projects before going to voters in the future. Both pointed out that a multi-generational center, approved by voters in 2000, has yet to be constructed due to a lack of operational funds.

Chandler Community Services director Mark Eynatten estimated the proposed museum would cost between $525,000 and $727,000 a year to maintain and operate.

Council members said the city would not build the museum until it had the necessary operational funds and suggested that funding could come from sources such as memberships, admission fees, endowments, partnerships with individuals and corporations, trusts or grants.

In addition to a lack of a funding source for operations, there's isn't a specific site for the museum and it hasn't been determined who would run the facility.

The nonprofit Chandler Historical Society, which runs the existing museum at 178 E. Commonwealth, could be put in charge of operating it, city officials said. The organization received more than 60 percent of its revenue for 2002-03 from the city.

Former museum director Stephen Schwartz, whose contract was not renewed in December, questioned the historical society's abilities at the council meeting Thursday. He questioned the board's ability to raise and expend funds and professionally staff and operate a larger museum.

Historical society board member Ken Thomas also addressed the council and denied accusations by Schwartz of wasteful spending of thousands of dollars, inaccurate membership lists and payment to a board employee Schwartz claims did nothing.

"He called us inept," Thomas said. "He's right. If we weren't inept, we wouldn't have hired him in the first place."

Noel Stowe, chairman of the bond subcommittee for the museum bond proposal and chairman of the Museum Advisory Board, wrote in a letter submitted to the mayor that the historical society lacked "a strong, articulated vision for the museum." He added that he and the board envisioned a new, upscale museum run and staffed by the city.

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