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  • Writer's pictureCharlene Sims, Journal staff

Museum director challenges county to increase funding

The board president of the Trading Post Historical Society challenged the Linn County Commission on Monday, July 10, to increase the county's annual contribution to that museum. (Screen capture/Trading Post Museum Facebook page)

By Charlene Sims, Journal staff

MOUND CITY – Ali Hamilton, board president of the Trading Post Historical Society, questioned the Linn County Commissioners during their meeting on Monday, July 10, on why they approved the line item for the county’s museums without waiting for the museums to present their budgets.

Hamilton said that the Trading Post Museum has been receiving the same $8,000 budget for years, and if the county’s contribution was based on the increased value of the dollar over those years, the museum should be receiving $49,000.

Hamilton said that she had made an appointment to get on the agenda and this week was the first time available and she asked why the commissioners approved the historical society’s budget at a previous meeting.

“Why wouldn’t you just give us a chance to speak?” asked Hamilton. “If you want to hear from us, you need to specifically communicate with us.”

Commission Chair Danny McCullough said that he had attended a meeting with representatives from the different museums and there seemed to be a lot of tension between the museums.

Currently and for several years, the historical society line item in Linn County’s general fund received $40,000 year and $8,000 per year was paid out to each of the five museums in the county: Trading Post, Parker, La Cygne, Pleasanton and Mound City.

McCullough has been questioning for several months what each museum used the money for and what hours they were open. He had been asking to have the representatives from the museums come to the commission meeting to report on their museums and no one had done it.

At the start of her presentation, Hamilton threw out several ideas to the commissioners. After researching museum budgets in other counties, she said that Allen County did have a statute that funded two museums, one at Humboldt for $17,500 and one at Iola for $34,000.

She said that Anderson County also had a statute that funded one museum for $40,700. She said that her understanding was that this had to be put on the ballot for a statute. She said by doing that it might show that the county wants to support historical societies and museums.

In a later phone conversation with County Clerk David Lamb, he said that he believes there is a statute that says counties may implement a tax levy to support historical societies but are not obligated to do so. He said he thought what Hamilton was talking about was a resolution made by the county to provide a mill levy to a historical society.

Other ideas Hamilton suggested were a transient tax of 6% to 8% on lodging in Linn County. While Linn County does not have a hotel, she said, there were a lot of Airbnbs, bed and breakfasts, and hunting lodges where people spend a lot of money.

She then brought up the Isinglass Winery, the Firewater Festival and the Dancefestopia events, which are held right over the county line in Miami County.

She said that if the county did not want to do a transient tax that maybe the city of La Cygne could benefit from this tax because of these events.

She also told the commissioners one of the things Linn County is not doing is taking out a tourism tax. Other counties often take out 1.5%. She pointed out that Linn County does not have a tourism director or anyone working directly on tourism.

“So pulling some funds out of economic development would be an option,” said Hamiliton.

She also said she did not completely understand where the special alcohol tax money was supposed to go but questioned the distribution of those funds.

McCullough said that he thought that there should be a historical society board and the funds should go to that to be distributed because there were more historical items than just the museums in Linn County. He said he thought there needed to be more accountability. He said there were signs everywhere that needed to be redone.

Hamilton said that there were many historical signs that needed to be updated and that she had helped design several of them. She said that the $8,000 received by the Trading Post Museum did not pay for that work.

Hamilton said that the museum received grants from the Freedom Frontier, Kansas Museum Association (KMA), Patterson Foundation, Evergy and other donations. She said that many people contributed $15 to $20 a month through PayPal resulting in about $14,000 per year.

McCullough said that he had talked with representatives of the museums several times over the last three years.

Commissioner Jason Hightower asked for clarification that she was asking to raise the Trading Post Museum from receiving $8,000 to $49,000.

The commission has not valued museums for numerous years; it has not increased museum budgets since the 1970s, said Hamilton. She confirmed that she was seeking $49,000 for the Trading Post Museum, adding that it was the museum in the county that was open regularly.

Hightower said he would need to see some harder numbers. He said that he would have to see the numbers to consider that. He asked for the hours they were open and the numbers of people who attended the museum.

Hamilton replied saying she had passed that information out in the past. She said they were open from April 1 to Nov. 30 and about 200 people attended per month.

McCullough made a motion to deny the request from Hamilton for the Trading Post Museum. The motion passed unanimously.

At the end of the meeting, Hamilton reiterated in her opinion, that “you did not give us a chance to speak.”

McCullough thanked her for attending and moved the meeting on.

Hamilton said, “I can’t say ‘thank you’ to you guys for much at this point.”

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