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Johnsburg board mulls funding for Depot Museum

— For years, the town of Johnsburg general fund budget has contained a line item appropriating money to help support the North Creek Depot Museum. The appropriation has typically been between $7,500 and $10,000 per year. Town Supervisor estimates that during the past four years, the town’s contribution to the museum totaled nearly $40,000.

But in the tight economic straights the town finds itself, town leaders are now weighing whether it’s appropriate to continue funding the museum and if so, at what level. The issue arose, town Supervisor Ron Vanselow said, after the town’s legal counsel indicated that it isn’t appropriate to fund a non-profit unless the town receives something in return. Vanselow said he found a four-year-old agreement between the town and the museum that described an arrangement whereby the town would provide funding in exchange for some educational components the museum would present to local school children. But that was four years ago.

At the Tuesday, Sept. 18 town board meeting, Vanselow invited members of the museum board to make their case for continued funding. The discussion was at times heated and emotional.

Helen Miner, co-president of the museum’s board of directors, told the town board that without the town’s funding, the museum can’t function as it currently does. The museum board has already eliminated the museum director’s position, Miner said. But in order to maintain its state certification, it has to reinstate the position, at least on a part-time basis.

Miner told the board the museum has drawn 2,500 visitors so far this summer. Those people spend money in the town, she said. Additionally, the museum raised $27,000 last year and almost all of it was spent locally for fuel, various supplies, advertising and publicity and other expenses.

Miner said that when the museum was first established, it was one of the few non-profits in the town and therefore fund-raising efforts were largely successful as residents rallied around the museum and supported it. Much has changed in the intervening years, she said. There are many more non-profits and fund-raising is far more difficult.

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